A St. Lawrence University anthropology professor and more than 20 of her students were recognized by local elected officials on Wednesday, Jan. 15, for their enthusiasm to help a community when it needed them most.
Heuvelton Mayor Barbara Lashua and members of the Heuvelton Village Board commended Mindy Pitre, associate professor of anthropology and J. Ansil Ramsay Professor of Public Health, and her students for their professionalism and expertise in helping excavate and analyze skeletal remains recovered at a nearby construction site.
“This group of talented specialists performed their work with accuracy, attention to detail, and, most importantly, with respect for the individuals who were, unintentionally, disturbed in their resting places,” Lashua said in her remarks to the group.
Last year as the Village of Heuvelton began replacing its existing water tower, construction crews stumbled onto skeletal remains. The site had once been the village’s first cemetery but was thought to have been emptied and its burials moved to nearby Hillcrest Cemetery in the late 1800s. Pitre was called in as a bioarchaeological consultant when the remains were discovered and entrusted her students with the important work of handling some of Heuvelton’s first residents with care.
“Few, if any, small communities would have the expertise to properly handle such a delicate situation,” Lashua said. “Heuvelton, however, was fortunate enough to have […] Mindy Pitre and a cadre of talented and dedicated St. Lawrence University students close by to see us through this sensitive time of discovery.”
Lashua continued, “We realize that, while this discovery presented a unique and authentic learning experience for these students to take with them, they leave behind a community that is grateful for their competence, skill, and integrity.”
The remains are being examined in Pitre’s St. Lawrence lab, where she is carrying out skeletal analysis to determine information such as sex, age, ancestry, height, and cause and manner of death. Once her analysis is complete and spring arrives, the human remains will be reburied in Hillcrest Cemetery.