Introduction: We are fortunate to have Public Historian Tyler Putman, Senior Manager of Gallery Interpretation at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, serving as one of our Board Members. Last year Tyler interviewed Anna Delaney, a state forensic scientist, and he wrote the following update to our story from seven years ago about the finding of human remains in the 600 block of Bank Avenue. -JMc, Editor
An Update on the Human Remains Found at 603 Bank Avenue
by Tyler Putman, Ph.D.
A swimming pool excavation in October 2014 brought news cameras to Riverton when workers unexpectedly uncovered skeletal human remains.
In 2015, Paul W. Schopp, Honorary Emeritus HSR Board Member, documented the find and provided a history of other unexpected Riverton discoveries and of the Bank Avenue property in question in a series of articles for the Gaslight News (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) in 2015.
After discovery, forensic anthropologists with the State Police excavated the Bank Avenue remains and currently hold them in safe and climate-controlled storage. A recent conversation with Anna Delaney, Forensic Anthropologist with the New Jersey State Police/Office of Forensic Science, Forensic Anthropology Unit, provided an update on this Riverton discovery.
While the news media stories in 2014 reported the discovery of a single human skeleton, the remains are actually even more interesting. Buried in a small, deep hole, the skeletal fragments are “commingled,” meaning the bones of multiple individuals were interred together, possibly at some time well after the individuals had died and perhaps when a number of pre-existed graves were excavated and the remains reburied.
The pit contained the fragmentary remains of at least five individuals, including four adults and one child of perhaps 2-4 years old, based on dentition (teeth). Two cranial fragments exhibited female characteristics, and none of the teeth are of the “shovel-shape” form that is often indicative of Native American ancestry, suggesting that the remains date to sometime after the arrival of non-Native peoples in the region.
The deteriorated state of the bones suggests that they had been buried for quite some time. There were no artifacts interred with the remains that would help suggest when they were buried in the way that even small things – buttons, pins, wood fragments – can sometimes do with burials.
Given the fragmentary nature of the remains, it was difficult for the scientists involved in the initial analysis to make further conclusions. Future study may reveal more information.