US fort`s 18th-century skeletons closer to return

Last Updated: Friday, January 17, 2014 - 15:13

Lake George: Skeletal remains of more than a dozen British soldiers who died during the French and Indian War are expected to be returned this year to upstate New York for reburial near their original resting place on a Colonial American battleground.

The skeletons originally had been buried outside Fort William Henry between its construction in 1755 and its destruction by the French two years later, a historical event depicted in James Fenimore Cooper`s "The Last of the Mohicans." Two years ago, fort officials publicly acknowledged for the first time that the skeletons had been taken in the late 1990s by an Arizona State University anthropologist.
Fort officials told The Associated Press today that the anthropologist has completed her research. The 15 mostly complete skeletons likely will be returned to the fort "before the end of the summer," fort spokeswoman Melodie Viele wrote in an email.

Ongoing construction of a public park adjacent to an area containing the fort`s unmarked military cemetery, estimated by archaeologists to contain more than 1,000 graves, could delay the reburial plans, she said.

"It would be totally irresponsible to bring these skeletons home without either a proper (storage) facility or to be able to return them to their original burial place," Viele said.
Two years ago, fort officials revealed to the AP that most of the skeletons they said were reburied during a 1993 ceremony actually had been taken by Brenda Baker, an anthropologist who worked on archaeological projects in the fort`s cemetery. Baker told the AP in 2012 that when she moved to Arizona State in 1998, the fort gave her permission to take a dozen skeletons from a 1993 project and three others from a 1995 dig for more study. The remains have been stored at the university since.

Baker was unavailable for comment today. She`s doing archaeological field work in Sudan until April 1, according to her voicemail.

Another anthropologist took boxes of human bone fragments with her when she moved to Canada to teach at a university there. Those remains were returned to the fort last spring, Viele said.

The skeletons were unearthed when the site was reconstructed as a tourist attraction in the mid-1950s. In the decades that followed, they became one of the fort`s most-viewed displays and a sightseeing fixture in Lake George, a popular tourist village 80 kilometres north of Albany.


First Published: Friday, January 17, 2014 - 15:13

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