Friday, May 1, 2009

State Museum Archaeologist Assists in Death Scene Investigation during High School Forensic Science Class

Dr. Kurt Carr, Senior Curator from the State Museum of Pennsylvania, with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, assisted Ms. Evans with a simulated Archaeology excavation. The excavation is part of a lesson on Forensic Anthropology in Ms. Evans's three Forensic Science classes at Susquehanna Township High School, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Eighty high school 11th and 12th grade students worked at the death scene with Dr. Carr. The 100 square meter excavation site is an open, dirt covered, area outside the high school building. The students uncovered and mapped deer skeletal remains at the site.

The skeletal remains were placed in the site with related “artifacts”, that when uncovered and mapped, will “tell the story” of what happened in the deaths of two deer. Under the direction of Dr. Carr, the Forensics students used archaeological techniques, methods and theory in their investigation into the deaths of the two deer. The deer skeletal remains are being “recycled” from the classes’ labs on Forensic Entomology at the high school and were donated by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Forensic Science students set up a measurement grid for the excavation. They then walked across the surface of the site mapping the location of bones and related artifacts (potential evidence). The goal of today's activities was to decide the best locations to excavate. Based on this surface collection strategy, student teams picked the square meter of the excavation in which they wanted to search for more evidence. They returned on Friday with trowel in hand to uncover the bones buried in the ground.

On the second day of the investigation, the Forensics Science students worked in teams to excavate a single unit at the site. Under the supervision of State Museum archaeologists, the investigators mapped, bagged and labeled the artifacts found on the surface of their unit. Units are 1 square meter areas on the 100 square meter site. The units have been named using a alphanumeric system. Once the surface artifacts were removed, the investigators used trowels, brushes and dust pans to remove the soil.

After uncovering the buried artifacts, investigators were instructed to map the location of the artifact using tape measures and record this measurement to graph paper. Toward the end of the day, investigators observed a pattern starting to emerge that would "tell the story" of what happened at 36Da231. (Final Report on the Investigation at 36Da231 to come.)

For more information, visit or the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania .

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