Workers stumbled upon human bones buried in the walls while working on renovations of the chapel's basement, college officials said yesterday. Harvard archaeologists will likely get the go-ahead to begin excavating the remains tomorrow.
"My first thought was, 'Oooohh, an old Harvard murder,'" said Associate Professor of Anthropology Carole A.S. Mandryk.
But Mandryk said she soon found that there was probably nothing sinister behind the bones, which are currently lodged in the basement's walls.
The remains were first discovered on the construction site by Rachel E. Sexton '00, an anthropology concentrator. When Sexton's teacher, Lecturer on Anthropology John P. Gerry, was told about the renovations, he asked her to oversee the work in case anything interesting turned up.
When workers broke through a wall, Sexton noticed the bones and asked Mandryk to identify them.
"They're definitely human bones," Mandryk said.
She also noticed several sawed-open skeletons, broken scientific glassware and test tubes strewn among the remains.
Sexton researched the building's history and discovered that it wasn't always a chapel. Between 1782 and 1850, part of the basement was used as an anatomy and dissection lecture hall for the Medical School.
"Some of the bones have metal pieces sticking out of them, as if someone was trying to construct a skeleton," Mandryk said.
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