Earliest autopsy north america





R ESEARCHERS REBURVING THE REMAINS OF 23 FRENCH SETTLERS ON ST. CROIX ISLAND CONFIRMED THAT ONE OF THE MEN’S SKULL CAPS WAS SAWED OFF AS A RESULT OF AN AUTOPSY. THE MAN, ALONG WITH 34 OTHER SETTLERS, DIED OF SCURVY DURING THE LONG WINTER OF 1604--1605. THE ISLAND, WHICH IS NOW PART OF ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, IS LOCATED IN THE ST. CROIX RIVER BETWEEN MAINE AND NEW BRUNSWICK, CANADA.


The 23 burials were discovered by Temple University researchers who investigated the site in 1969.


They exhumed portions of the remains fo r analysis. in 2003, the National Park Service hired Thomas Crist, a forensic anthropologist at Utica College, to lead a team that reburied those remains and also investigated intact portions of the burials. Crist’s team identified the autopsy evidence.


“The autopsy conducted at St. Croix Island and described in Samuel de Champlain’s. 1613. memoirs. represents the second one conducted by Europeans in the New World, but the first for which we have actual skeletal evidence,” said Crist . Because the 1969 expedition did not include a physical anthropologist, no one then realized that the individual represented by the remains we now call Burial 10 had been the subject of an autopsy.”


The autopsied man was about 18 or 19 years old when he died, the youngest of the 25 men whose remains the researchers examined.


Pierre Dugua, Sieur dc Mons, set sail from France in April, 1604, with a few hundred men, including the noted explorer Champlain, who served as cartographer and expedition chronicler, to establish a settlement in North America and take advantage of the area’s lucrative fur trade. Dugua chose the 6.5-acre island in the middle of the St. Croix River.


The early, harsh winter of 1604—1605 froze portions of the river making it unsafe to traverse, and the settlers wcrc trapped, cut off from fresh water, game, and wood on the mainland. Thirty-five of them perished and were buried in a small cemetery on the island. In a desperate attempt to determine the cause of the settlers’ deaths, Champlain wrote that the settlement’s barber-surgeon conducted several autopsies that winter, although evidence for only one autopsy was discovered.


These autopsies did not reveal what afflicted the settlers, but Crist’s team, using modern technology, concluded that the settlers died from scurvy. a vitamin C deficiency. Though evidence of the autopsy was discovered in 2003, Crist’s team didn’t complete their documentary research into the history of early autopsies until 2006.

-----—Tamara Stewart

SOURCE:

AMERICAN ARCHAEOLOGY Magazine

Winter 2006 - 2007 Vol. 10. No. 4 (pg. 11)

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