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Old 10th February 2014, 08:56 PM   #1
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University of Mississippi - 1000 unmarked graves?

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/sideshow...193203618.html

It seems to me like it is wasteful to not proceed with construction. Clearly the executive has watched 'Poltergeist' once too often.
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Old 10th February 2014, 09:18 PM   #2
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That's my reaction. There's probably not much left anyway.
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Old 11th February 2014, 04:16 AM   #3
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Well, the remains will have to be moved if they want to go ahead with construction, and from the article that sounds expensive. Decomposing corpses cause cavities.
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Old 11th February 2014, 05:02 AM   #4
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I thought not brushing after meals or sugary snacks caused cavities?

Well, the way I read the article made it seem like it was out of some notion of 'respect' for the dead that they were choosing not to build. I would think that a reasonably priced memorial could be erected and whatever logistics dealt with that would pass the human desire for 'respect' as well as the engineering issues.

Spending the quoted $3000 per corpse to relocate them, when they're unidentifiable and presumably largely unremembered seems a bit atrocious. I'm sure there are a few families who know that a relative may have ceased to be while in the care of the facility, but presumably these families are small enough in number to be appeased with a degree of reasonableness.

I hate to stand in the way of medical research/education for the sake of squeamishness over some 100+ year old bones.
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Old 11th February 2014, 05:09 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Antiquehunter View Post
I thought not brushing after meals or sugary snacks caused cavities?

Well, the way I read the article made it seem like it was out of some notion of 'respect' for the dead that they were choosing not to build.
Yeah, it's a little vague on that point.

Originally Posted by article
Mazurak said the university quickly determined it couldn't build on the site, both out of respect and due to the cost to move and rebury the bodies, which would have added $3 million to the cost of the parking garage project at about $3,000 per grave.
But still, they'd have to move them regardless. Even if not for the structural issue, there are quite a few laws that deal with the treatment of human remains.
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Old 11th February 2014, 05:47 AM   #6
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Old 11th February 2014, 08:08 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Cleon View Post
Well, the remains will have to be moved if they want to go ahead with construction, and from the article that sounds expensive. Decomposing corpses cause cavities.
Couldn't they just move the headstones and leave the bodies?
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Old 11th February 2014, 08:14 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Antiquehunter View Post
Spending the quoted $3000 per corpse to relocate them, when they're unidentifiable and presumably largely unremembered seems a bit atrocious. I'm sure there are a few families who know that a relative may have ceased to be while in the care of the facility, but presumably these families are small enough in number to be appeased with a degree of reasonableness.
I wouldn't count on it.

A similar thing happened here in St Louis when they wanted to expand one of the runways at the airport. There was an old cemetery in the way. Mind you, it was overgrown like a jungle, headstones were broken or missing, etc. Clearly, no one had visited this place in years. But....once the word got out, "relatives" started coming out of the woodwork, telling anyone who would listen about how their lives would be ruined, knowing that their "loved ones" had been moved, even though they didn't even know where they were buried to begin with. The graves were moved, but no one's life was ruined. Strange how money can fix that.
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Old 11th February 2014, 08:14 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Antiquehunter View Post
http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/sideshow...193203618.html

It seems to me like it is wasteful to not proceed with construction. Clearly the executive has watched 'Poltergeist' once too often.
It is mroe a question of money than fear , as the article mention, it cost 3000$ a pop to move a grave, and we are speaking 3 million $ here.
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Old 11th February 2014, 08:22 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Aepervius View Post
It is mroe a question of money than fear , as the article mention, it cost 3000$ a pop to move a grave, and we are speaking 3 million $ here.
When I lived in Indiana back in the '60s they had to move a town to make way for a reservoir. They had to move the cemetery as well, and hired people to do the work, and then paid them for the three months quarantine afterward.
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Old 11th February 2014, 10:20 AM   #11
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My understanding from the article is that there are no headstones - it is some sort of mass grave where this asylum was putting bodies. So the issue is really just the human remains, presumably not much of them, given the bodies have all been interred 80+ years.

Get the archaeology class out for a little field practice, shift all the bones to a common site not in the way of progress, re-inter and erect a little monument. Done and dusted. A backhoe, some buckets and trowels, and a few weekends worth of pizzas and beer.

Until those pesky spirits haunt the new school wing...
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Old 11th February 2014, 10:22 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Antiquehunter View Post
My understanding from the article is that there are no headstones - it is some sort of mass grave where this asylum was putting bodies. So the issue is really just the human remains, presumably not much of them, given the bodies have all been interred 80+ years.
You mean corpses without even the containment of a coffin, right?
Quote:
Get the archaeology class out for a little field practice, shift all the bones to a common site not in the way of progress, re-inter and erect a little monument. Done and dusted. A backhoe, some buckets and trowels, and a few weekends worth of pizzas and beer.
That would spawn some awesome lawsuits.
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Old 11th February 2014, 10:26 AM   #13
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Anyone who's read the B.P.R.D. 1946 comic knows this won't end well...
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Old 11th February 2014, 10:27 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by The Central Scrutinizer View Post
Couldn't they just move the headstones and leave the bodies?
It's a good idea.

Think how much they'd save on not having to pay people to stack the chairs after classes.
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Old 11th February 2014, 10:30 AM   #15
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On a serious note, is there any legal or rational reason for them not just sticking them in a Potters Field? Or a mass sea burial?

Is it all a P.R. thing?
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Old 11th February 2014, 10:32 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Antiquehunter View Post
Get the archaeology class out for a little field practice, shift all the bones to a common site not in the way of progress, re-inter and erect a little monument. Done and dusted. A backhoe, some buckets and trowels, and a few weekends worth of pizzas and beer.
Archaeology is kind of like jokes about tragedies, there's a minimal waiting time before it's socially acceptable. The difference between grave robbing and archaeology is a few hundred years.
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Old 11th February 2014, 10:39 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by Gawdzilla View Post
You mean corpses without even the containment of a coffin, right?
Well, the article doesn't give enough detail.

The article does say that 66 marked graves had already been moved, and the language suggests that there are no more marked graves.

Just this ground-penetrating radar that says they have a field with an (estimated) 1000 graves. Unclear with or without coffins.

I know nothing about how quickly someone decomposes, with or without a coffin. But the graves date from 1855-1935, so I would have to assume whatever is left behind has been picked dry by now.

The people squeamish about moving a mass graveyard, probably feel equally squeamish about just walking over the physical field in any event. I would expect the University will have to do SOMETHING, now that this has been publicized.

Even if they can't build / decide its not worth the effort to build, I would expect someone is going to complain enough to make them erect some sort of memorial plaque and likely do some tending to the field.
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Old 11th February 2014, 10:43 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Jekyll's Guest View Post
Archaeology is kind of like jokes about tragedies, there's a minimal waiting time before it's socially acceptable. The difference between grave robbing and archaeology is a few hundred years.
I'm going to assume that corpses being interred in unmarked graves, en masse, don't likely have much to offer up in the way of jewellery and gold teeth, to entice grave robbers.
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Old 11th February 2014, 11:35 AM   #19
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Archaeologists and Anthropologists have experience in such matters.
They often have to clear war crime burial sites and such a site may well be a good training ground for P.HD students
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Old 11th February 2014, 12:23 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Antiquehunter View Post
I'm going to assume that corpses being interred in unmarked graves, en masse, don't likely have much to offer up in the way of jewellery and gold teeth, to entice grave robbers.
Non sequitur?
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Old 11th February 2014, 12:35 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Jekyll's Guest View Post
On a serious note, is there any legal or rational reason for them not just sticking them in a Potters Field? Or a mass sea burial?

Is it all a P.R. thing?
Dealing with human bodies causes a HUGE number of problems in any construction project. First, you have to establish that the bodies are not Native American. If they are, you may as well close up shop; often it's unclear which tribe a body belongs to, and they end up suing each other to figure out what to do with the bodies (in my experience, construction companies step back and say "Look, you tell me what you want me to do and I'll do it."). If they're not Native American, efforts must be made to identify who they are if the graves are recent, and if they're not there's a host of archaeological issues that must be considered. The National Environmental Protection Act contains specific provisions for the handling of human remains (I'm familiar with it because paleontology is lumped in under that heading for some unfathemable reason).

If you're really, really lucky the bodies are of white folks burried in the past 50 years or so with no living kin. Then you just pack 'em up and ship 'em to a new cemetary. Odds are, however, things will get much more complex than that.

Originally Posted by Antiquehunter
I know nothing about how quickly someone decomposes, with or without a coffin. But the graves date from 1855-1935, so I would have to assume whatever is left behind has been picked dry by now.
Without knowing more about the sediment it's impossible to say. Mississippi tends to be wet, which is not good for bones (check out masceration techniques sometime--if you can stomach the videos, you can learn a LOT about bone preservation!). I doubt they were cremated or burned; that tends to be fairly distinct, and would make it impossible to calculate the number of dead in the site.

If I had to guess, I'd say they're just bones at this point, with many of the smaller bones (sesimoid bones, metacarples, philangies, etc) completely worn away. The skull, ribs, vertebrae, long bones, and teeth would still be around, as would the hips. Which means, practically speaking, the entire skeleton--without very specific sampling methodologies those smaller bones are impossible to collect anyway.

Quote:
Get the archaeology class out for a little field practice, shift all the bones to a common site not in the way of progress, re-inter and erect a little monument. Done and dusted. A backhoe, some buckets and trowels, and a few weekends worth of pizzas and beer.
Not a bad solution. A lot of bones end up in charnal houses anyway; it's a socially acceptable method for dealing with human remains. Plus, archaeology is an exact and rigorous science; it's nothing like grave robbing (regardless of when it occures), which makes it MUCH easier to convince relatives, lawyers, and tribes to let them do stuff like this. It's still not easy, but it takes you from "Walk ten laps around the Sun in sandles" difficult to "Walk ten laps around the Earth" difficult.
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Old 11th February 2014, 12:38 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by Jekyll's Guest View Post
Non sequitur?
No, I was just replying to your comment that archaeology vs grave robbing differed only by a couple of hundred years.

My suspicion is that dead inmates from an asylum anonymously turfed in the ground probably won't yield more loot beyond a few skulls, and perhaps the odd pelvic bone.
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Old 11th February 2014, 12:45 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by Antiquehunter View Post
No, I was just replying to your comment that archaeology vs grave robbing differed only by a couple of hundred years.

My suspicion is that dead inmates from an asylum anonymously turfed in the ground probably won't yield more loot beyond a few skulls, and perhaps the odd pelvic bone.
If it's a pedantic issue of language, would changing my statement to "The difference between desecrating a grave and archaeology is a few hundred years" be a clearer statement?

If you put a mummy up in your museum you're a curator, but you put Aunt Meg in a case in your garage...
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Old 11th February 2014, 12:50 PM   #24
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Dinwar: thatnk you for the informative post.

PS - My language seems to have rankled more than one person, and I certainly didn't mean to cause offense.

We do have a bizarre cultural double standard about human remains though, almost purely to do with how long they've been dead.

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Old 11th February 2014, 12:51 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by Jekyll's Guest View Post
If you put a mummy up in your museum you're a curator, but you put Aunt Meg in a case in your garage...
There was a peculiar case where a guy did that with a skeleton in a bar--he sat the skeleton on a barrel in the bar, as a conversation piece. As I understand it, the legal issues were pretty entangled; I don't remember if the skeleton consented before he passed or not.
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Old 11th February 2014, 12:53 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by Jekyll's Guest View Post

If you put a mummy up in your museum you're a curator, but you put Aunt Meg in a case in your garage...
... You're Ed Gein.

I don't disagree with the comparison, my point was only that I think 'grave robbing' in this patch would be as pointless as stealing brain cells from Sarah Palin.
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Old 11th February 2014, 12:54 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by Jekyll's Guest View Post
Dinwar: thatnk you for the informative post.

PS - My language seems to have rankled more than one person, and I certainly didn't mean to cause offense.

We do have a bizarre cultural double standard about human remains though, almost purely to do with how long they've been dead.
Yeah, we do. Technically anything >50 years old is an archaeological artifact, at least in California, Nevada, and that area (other areas may have other rules, and there are rules for continued use and the like--a 50 year old barn isnt' a heretage site). The reason is that we have to have SOME cut-off date, and 50 years is about two generations, so it's a good number. Plus (and this is not a minor consideration) it captures WWII artifacts. Very annoying, actually--soldiers left a lot of trash in the desert during WWII training, and every trash pile is considered an Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA), meaning we're not allowed to touch it. It's a freaking can of Spam; there's not much to learn from it!
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Old 11th February 2014, 12:55 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by Antiquehunter View Post
I don't disagree with the comparison, my point was only that I think 'grave robbing' in this patch would be as pointless as stealing brain cells from Sarah Palin.
Panning_for_Gold-M.jpg

p392270-alaska-panning-for-gold-in-gold-rush-country-jpg.jpg

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Old 11th February 2014, 12:58 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by Antiquehunter View Post
I don't disagree with the comparison, my point was only that I think 'grave robbing' in this patch would be as pointless as stealing brain cells from Sarah Palin.
You, sir, have never met a construction worker! No joke--my grandfather once had a site shut down because a worker found a Native American burial, put the skull on the dashboard of his truck (with feathered head dress, as I heard the story), went to a bar, and bragged about it to the cultural monitor for the state. I have the utmost respect for construction crews; I know from experience that I suck at handling crains and backhoes and the like. That said, they're not the brightest bulbs in the box.
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Old 11th February 2014, 01:06 PM   #30
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Dinwar:

If you'd care to make a thread about the rules, regulations, and politics of archaeologists handling American Indian remains, I for one would be very interested in it.
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Old 11th February 2014, 01:09 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by Dinwar View Post
You, sir, have never met a construction worker! No joke--my grandfather once had a site shut down because a worker found a Native American burial, put the skull on the dashboard of his truck (with feathered head dress, as I heard the story), went to a bar, and bragged about it to the cultural monitor for the state. I have the utmost respect for construction crews; I know from experience that I suck at handling crains and backhoes and the like. That said, they're not the brightest bulbs in the box.
How much of that would you attribute to cultural insensitivity of your grandfather's time, and how much to the worker being an idiot?

It wasn't that long ago that people were tossing mummies on fires as makeshift firewood, or world renowned men of learning tearing them open for the gawking public.
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Old 11th February 2014, 01:26 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by Jekyll's Guest View Post
How much of that would you attribute to cultural insensitivity of your grandfather's time, and how much to the worker being an idiot?
Well, I had a guy on one of my sites lacerate his hand because he was cutting parts off a four wheeler with a dull knife, because he was bored. So.....50/50, maybe?

Quote:
...or world renowned men of learning tearing them open for the gawking public.
To be fair, this was standard procedure at the time. You didn't learn surgery from textbooks, you learned it watching a guy perform surgery in an arena. So really the renowned men of learning were doing what they were trained to do, just in a different setting (many renowned men of learning in all fields at the time were surgeons or doctors).
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Old 11th February 2014, 01:36 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by Dinwar View Post
To be fair, this was standard procedure at the time. You didn't learn surgery from textbooks, you learned it watching a guy perform surgery in an arena. So really the renowned men of learning were doing what they were trained to do, just in a different setting (many renowned men of learning in all fields at the time were surgeons or doctors).
As with your grandfather's workmen, I of course give them the benefit of the norms of the time in which they lived.

It's hard not to see the crude, sometimes even avaricious, way ancient finds were treated by the semi-professionals of yesteryear as disastrous. But I suppose that could be said of every branch of science, all modern achievement is built upon a myriad of mistakes...and casualties.
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Old 11th February 2014, 04:40 PM   #34
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In the UK you find an interment wherever you dig. Paleolithic, BronzeAge, Iron Age, Roman, Saxon, Norse or whatever. It's no big thing.
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Old 11th February 2014, 05:20 PM   #35
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Maybe we need to invent a new way to excavate?

Something that pulverizes the earth to the required depth and then removes it in a slurry.

Because if you never become aware of the interment, you have no obligation to deal with it.
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Old 12th February 2014, 09:23 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by BenBurch View Post
Maybe we need to invent a new way to excavate?

Something that pulverizes the earth to the required depth and then removes it in a slurry.

Because if you never become aware of the interment, you have no obligation to deal with it.
You know, at one time there was a push for the use of nuclear charges for civil engineering...

ETA: Perhaps push is too strong a word. There was consideration of the possibility, I should say.
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Old 12th February 2014, 09:31 AM   #37
Dinwar
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Originally Posted by Hellbound
You know, at one time there was a push for the use of nuclear charges for civil engineering...

ETA: Perhaps push is too strong a word. There was consideration of the possibility, I should say.
Yeah....That makes sense. I grew up with a civil engineer as a father, and while he was never quite serious, he'd make suggestions like that from time to time just to throw people off ballance. Makes the other options seem less crazy.

Originally Posted by BenBurch
Because if you never become aware of the interment, you have no obligation to deal with it.
Not true. Preconstruction analysis is done to determine the likelyhood of impacts to various environmental resources, based on various criteria. NEPA has fairly specific criteria for archaeological evaluations, and standard practice in the field and state requirements provide additional guidance. Various construction and excavation methods are always discussed (the Environmental Impact Analysis always includes multiple alternatives, including a "No Action" alternative and several construction alternatives). So while you can propose this, expect the regulators to refuse to sign off on it unless you're dealing with entirely new disturbed sediment (ie, a landfill or spoils dump of some sort that was only operational for the past decade or two).

Plus, you'd have to grind the bones REALLLY small to avoid seeing them--even fragmentary bones are sufficient to shut down the job until the coroner gives their okay to restart construction. ANY suspicion of human remains requires shutting down that portion of the site until the coroner determines if it's human (and longer if it is). I heard of a jobsite shut down once due to some mis-identified canine bones (not an archaeologist or paleontologist that found them; it was a construction worker).
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Old 12th February 2014, 10:01 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by Gawdzilla View Post
When I lived in Indiana back in the '60s they had to move a town to make way for a reservoir. They had to move the cemetery as well, and hired people to do the work, and then paid them for the three months quarantine afterward.

That's Monument City, located in what's now the Salamonie Reservoir, near Huntington. My great grandparents, great-great grandparents, a couple of great uncles, and a few other relatives were buried in another cemetery, Mount Etna, which also had to be moved. I'll ask my dad if he knows anything about any compensation or hold-ups. I'm reasonably certain that my grandmother, my great aunt, and my three then-surviving great uncles wouldn't have been interested in profiting from any such move, though.
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Old 12th February 2014, 10:01 AM   #39
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Originally Posted by Dinwar View Post
Yeah....That makes sense. I grew up with a civil engineer as a father, and while he was never quite serious, he'd make suggestions like that from time to time just to throw people off ballance. Makes the other options seem less crazy.
It was seriously considered at one time. Wiki gives a decent overview at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear...rgy_production. The idea was to use it for large-scale projects like making lakes, canals, removing mountains, and similar. See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Plowshare

But I'm done drifting off-topic now
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Old 12th February 2014, 10:41 AM   #40
Dinwar
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Originally Posted by Hellbound
It was seriously considered at one time.
Oh, Dad's guano-crazy ideas were seriously considered--by him, at least!

Not sure how effective it'd be, to be honest. There are a lot of nuclear test holes in Nevada, and a rather noteable derth of lakes in those regions. The issue is, they'd fracture the substrate--they may make a fast hole, but there's really not much you can do with it without some serious work, possibly equal to the work it'd take to do it without nukes anyway (obviously depending on where you are).
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