Imagine you are just going about your business, doing your job, when suddenly, a human skull rolls out at your feet! Quite the shock, right? That is exactly what happened one day near Albany, New York in 2005. A backhoe was scooping up dirt to lay a sewer pipe when an object was dislodged by the digging a a construction worker realized it was a skull. Obviously work stopped right away.
Quickly the police were called in to make sure they weren’t disturbing a crime scene. And what they discovered was a shock to many. It turns out they had stumbled upon the slave graveyard of a large family farm owned by the Schuyler’s until 1910. While the Schuyler family cemetery was closer to the main house and clearly marked, where the slaves had been buried was lost over time, probably due to just stones or wooden grave markers used to designate the graves.
Archaeologists can learn a lot about how people lived in the past from studying how people were buried, what condition their bones were in at the time of death, and even doing DNA and isotope testing to show what areas of the country and world the people had lived in. This finding added to the growing body of knowledge about people who were enslaved in the north.
Forgotten Bones: Uncovering a slave cemetery by Lois Miner Huey is a fascinating look into the lives of enslaved people living in the north and how their lives differed and were the same as those in the south.
Recommended for grades 6 and up.