Skeletons Unearthed During Superstorm Sandy Reveal Some Historical Details

Oct 31, 2013

Credit Des Colhoun / Creative Commons

One year ago on Halloween eve, there was a surprising discovery on the New Haven green. It was just days after Superstorm Sandy, and trees had blown down all around town. A giant oak tree toppled over on the green, and there, tangled in its roots, were centuries-old human bones.

"It was a concentrated and very dense burial ground."
Gary Aronsen

On further investigation, skeletons of multiple Colonial-era adults and children were unearthed. On Thursday night, experts in New Haven will present their preliminary analyses of the remains.

Gary Aronsen, a research associate with Yale University’s Department of Anthropology, said, "The New Haven green and the number of bodies that were buried there between the 1600s to the 1800s reflects the fact that it was a concentrated and very dense burial ground. However, in the early 1800s, the headstones that were all present on the New Haven green were moved to the current location of Grove Street Cemetery. But the bodies are still present, and that’s why these individuals have been exposed by the storm."

Aronsen said New Haven’s acidic soil is not ideal for preserving skeletal material. Still, he said this is a remarkable find, particularly because the collection includes bones of children, which are often not well preserved.

Connecticut’s state archeologist, historians, genetics experts, and radiologists are working with Aronsen to learn more about the lives of the deceased. Thursday's presentation takes place at the New Haven Museum.