REPORT OF DR. CHARLES EWEN, East Carolina University

July 28th

At Vernon Hall
Ben Jackson, Bill Moxley & Luther, John Clauser, Doug Frangis, Budd Patterson, Tim Shortley, Jeremy Eamic, Randy Daniel, Tina Greene, Laura Seifert, Mattie Rasberry, Lisa Leone

Martha Marble. Susan Hoffman, Pat Faulkner, Ted Sampley, Jan Barwick, Lee Raynor & Janet Sutton (Kinston Free Press) and others.

Started by 9 am removing bamboo. By 10 am the area had been cleared and the graves relocated. Directly under the sod layer, plastic was encountered. This was followed by a layer of clean sand, which had been put in as fill after the graves had been first exposed in October of 2000. Our efforts were first directed on the second coffin encountered during 2000 (fea 2). This was the coffin in the crypt disturbed by the tree fall. Since it was closer to the surface we thought to try our coffin raising technique on it.

The first coffin (fea 2, NC-2) was encountered at 11 am. It was raised, using three sets of 1/2" rope looped beneath the casket and raised by 4 men on each side. It was secured to a 2'x8' sheet of plywood with straps and set on a waiting wheelbarrow. The wheelbarrow was maneuvered to the parking lot and the secured coffin was placed in the bed of the lab pick up.

The second coffin (fea 1, NC-1) was more deeply buried in a narrower crypt. Scraps of wood and a cut nail were encountered in the fill. In 2000 this was interpreted as part of the form for building the crypt. The coffin was lying partially on its side. Getting it out of the ground was challenging. It was much heavier and had to be tilted on its side to extract it from the narrow opening. By 1:30 it, too, was secured in a similar fashion as the other coffin and loaded into the pick up.

Both coffins, though heavy, appeared to be in excellent shape. The 22 bolts securing the coffin halves appear to have done their job. The iron cover over the glass faceplate appears intact. Comparison with pictures taken in October 2000 showed little deterioration since their first exposure. No fluid was leaking from the coffins. Both coffins and their pallets were lashed in to the back of the pick up for transport to the Smithsonian.


August 1 –4

At the Smithsonian
Charles Ewen, Linda Wolfe – ECU faculty
Mattie Rasberry, Tracy Gurnsey – ECU students
Martha Marble, Susan Hoffman – friends of the family
Assembled specialists
Doug Owsley & Karin Bruwelheide - osteology
Shelly Foote & Beth Eubanks - costumes
Laurie Burgess - historical archaeology
Dave Hunt - archaeologist
Arthur& Mary Aufderheide & Larry Cartmill - pathologists
Tom Goulick – DNA

Casket 1 (NC-1Smithsonian, fea.1 ECU)
6' x 2' 517lbs
The casket appears intact, though a hole will be drilled in the bottom half to drain any water that might be present - it was, but not a lot, at first.Correction - the coffin was completely filled with water. The procedure for opening the coffins consisted of knoking the rust off the bolts, then attempting to unscrew them using vicegrips. This only succeeded in snapping off the bolt heads. The sprue was then ground off with a grinder/cutting blade. The halves were carefully separated with a series of wedges, then lifted off.

When opened, it was discovered that the coffin had been jumbled around over time. The skull was located at the foot end and the pelvis at the head end. Curiously, the faceplate was not broken. Perhaps, like a skylight, it simply leaked. A close examination of the inside of the top half of the casket suggests that this exactly what happened.
Decomposition was nearly complete, although the skeleton was well preserved and a quantity of hair was present as well. The bones exhibit evidence of abrasion. This is probably due to their movement over time in the casket. The abrasions were not fresh, so the abrasions do not to be a consequence of transporting the coffins.

Preliminary indications are that the skeleton is a woman in her 30s. She was very active and right-handed. She appears to have had at least one child. There are bones and hair, but no soft tissue visible (perhaps small piece of skin). The hair was dark, wound in a chignon (with a possible snood)
Artifacts: hairpins, hair comb fragments (tortoiseshell?), hairpins, wedding ring (18k), 2 Prosser buttons (1840 TPQ), several teeth have gold fillings and a porcelain crown was recovered. The coffin lining (bottom 1/2 only) was silk and some fragments remained

The coffin was completely emptied and the dark, fine sediment at the bottom was scooped out and run through a fine mesh in an effort to collect everything of interest. It should be noted that none of the sand fill that was used to rebury the coffins was found inside the coffins. This indicated that water had infiltrated the coffins prior to our original investigation in October 2000.

Casket 2 (NC-2Smithsonian, fea. 2 ECU)
187.9cm (6.2 ft) x 49.3 (1.6 ft) 341 lbs.
CT scan taken prior to opening shows this to be 1/2 full of water and the bones jumbled. The water appears to have leaked where the two halves were joined.

When removing the bolts we noted that they were capped with a silver-colored (nickle-plated?) wash. This was not noticed on the first coffin, though the rust may have obscured it.

When opened the second skeleton was in similar condition to the first one. The bones were concentrated at the head and foot end, though the skull was at the head end this time. Hair was present but not as elaborately styled. No other hair ornaments. Evidence of extensive dental work (i.e. gold fillings)

Another woman (late 30s, early 40s). There was some ambiguity concerning her age. 2 large Gall stones recovered, which may have contributed to her death. She also had a herniated disk.

Artifacts - virtually none. 2 white porcelain buttons. There also appeared to be rosemary leaves present. Part of coffin liner also present.

This coffin, like the first, was completely emptied and all liquid and sediment run through a fine mesh. This produced only a single straight pin.

Coffin 3 - from DC area
Discovered in April 2005, faceplate was broken by vandals, but coffin put in a cooler til today (8/3).
A Fisk, mummiform, draped coffin. Coffin had rusted through at the foot end. The bottom half broke in two when the cover was removed.

Nevertheless, the individual was in a well-preserved, dessicated state. The skins, though dried, was still pliable and the internal organs were in surprisingly good shape.

The body wrapped in cloth underneath which was a handsown shirt, trousers, underwear, and socks. There was also a piece of cloth tied around the head to secure the jaw closed.

The individual appears to be a 13 year old boy. He seems to have suffered from pneumonia at some point in his life, although this was determined not to be the cause of his death since some healing had occurred.

Charles R. Ewen, PhD
Professor, Department of Anthropology
Director, ECU Archaeology Laboratories
267 Flanagan Building
East Carolina University
Greenville, NC 27858-4353
252-328-9454


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