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Hijacked skeletal remains from Fort William Henry to be returned

Working on an archeological dig several years ago at Fort William Henry's west barracks are (left foreground) the late John Farrell, Matthew Rozell (right foreground) and retired curator Gerry Bradfield (right rear). Archeological digs on the premises of the Fort over the past decades have unearthed skeletons of soldiers who fought in the French and Indian War.The remains of many of those skeletons — under forensic examination at several universities — are expected to be returned to Lake George later this year for reburial.
Photo by Dr. David Starbuck, archeologist in charge of various digs at Fort William Henry

Working on an archeological dig several years ago at Fort William Henry's west barracks are (left foreground) the late John Farrell, Matthew Rozell (right foreground) and retired curator Gerry Bradfield (right rear). Archeological digs on the premises of the Fort over the past decades have unearthed skeletons of soldiers who fought in the French and Indian War.The remains of many of those skeletons — under forensic examination at several universities — are expected to be returned to Lake George later this year for reburial. Photo by Dr. David Starbuck, archeologist in charge of various digs at Fort William Henry

— Research is nearly complete on the skeletal remains of more than a dozen British soldiers who perished during the French and Indian War, and the remains are expected to be returned to Fort William Henry later this year for reburial.

 For decades, visitors at Fort William Henry could view the skeletons on display: those of British Soldiers from the 18th century.  In 1993, officials of the fort decided, as most museums had out of respect, to take down the exhibit, and rebury the remains.

The Fort held a publicized reburial ceremony on Memorial Day weekend of that year attracting reenactors, historians, veterans and media representatives.

What wasn’t known to most was that only a few of the remains were actually buried that day.  The others — some 15 nearly complete skeletons — were not on site, and were awaiting research to be conducted by two anthropologists, Maria Liston and Brenda Baker.

The Fort publicly acknowledged in 2012 that the remains were out of the area and never buried that day.

Many of the people who attended the ceremony back in 1993 were outraged and demanded answers.

Fort officials had never meant for the skeletal remains to be gone this long; the plan had always been to return them to the fort.

In fact, both Liston and Baker received jobs out of state shortly after receiving permission to study the skeletons.  Both were granted permission to take the remains with them to finish their analysis. Liston was hired at the University of Waterloo in Canada, while Baker took a job at Arizona State.

“The Fort has always tried to do the right thing in regards to these remains; they had no idea they’d be gone this long, but the research that’s come from this is unprecedented,” said noted archeologist David Starbuck of Chestertown.

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