DIGGING UP HUMAN CORPSES


It occurred me that not many people in this world have had an opportunity to dig up a human corpse. Off the top of my head, I can think of only two avocations that would have this done on a regular basis: Crime scene investigators who would do it with heavy rock music in the background, and archaeologists who wouldn’t have music, but only because nobody has made a television series of them.

 As an archaeologist, I have excavated several human corpses who have been interred for 500 years and 3000 years. I remember each one of them, largely because they are so difficult to perform. You need to photograph them and draw them and map them at every stage of the excavation. Then you need to fill out painstaking paperwork and spell all the names of the  bones with expert accuracy. Finally, you need to do all this without smearing mud all over the forms.

 I can’t do this. I am the Abominable Mud Man when it comes to forms and maps and the like. I remember one site director say, “What the hell is this? When I excavate a burial I can hand in the field drawings as part of the report. I give it to Mike, and he wipes his ass with it, uses it to wash his car, then uses it as a bib to eat his lunch. I don’t know what’s the matter with him.

 I have had a few burials. Here are three corpses I have known.

 One was at the bottom of a 2.5 m excavation unit in a resort area of Surrey, BC known as Crescent Beach.  The remains were those of a male. In one hand he held a chipped slate bifacr (knife) that was about 20 cm long, and it had a serrated edge. This blade. I thought., would be dandy at sawing off plantar warts. In his other hand he held a 40 cm long ground slate blade. Both of these tools would have been very expensive 2500 years ago, and they would take an artisan a very long time to make. This burial, we reasoned, was one of a very important dude.

 Another one was also found Crescent Beach at another place in time and space. It was at a portion of the site that was occupied about 500 years ago and it seems that it was unceremoniously dumped on the shell midden. It was left near the surface, and the fact that the bones were scattered and he was missing large parts of the skull showed that it was likely a slave.

 What was important about this fellow, though, was what it did for the career of one of the archaeologists in the field. I was a supervisor at the site. We were using pumps and hoses to bring water from the tide pools on the beach to the site so we could water screen the dirt through 2 mm mesh. That worked well most of the time, but sometimes the engines broke down and I had to fix them. Hat meant I was covered in grease most of each day. The remains were in the part of the site I was responsible for. I looked around at my crew.

 “You,” I said, pointing at a field school student, “Are no longer an archaeologist. You are now a technical artist.”

 “Oooo!”  she said.

 I showed her how to use a plumb bon to measure in the bones and transfer them to scale in her drawings. Soon she was showing me techniques that I never would have thought of. She now has several books under her belt. I continue to make career decisions for people.

 The third one occurred on my last day of being a government archaeologist. I was off to do a graduate degree or two when the following Monday. In the middle of Friday afternoon I  received a phone call to go to St. Mungo Cannery in North  Delta on the Bank of the Fraser River. This was a known site that marks 3000 years of occupation and fishing in the Fraser Valley.. There, I was told, a backhoe unearthed a skeleton. This was going to me my last ride. I was to retrieve the corpse for the Provincial Museum, and they would pick it up within a week.

 When I got there, the backhoe was gone and some Boy Scouts had placed the bones in a potato sack.

 “That’s no way to treat human remains,” I thought, so I put the bones in plastic bags and labelled them for the museum to pick up, then put them in the trunk of my car. Luckily a crew from Simon Fraser University showed up to give me a hand with the mapping. In fact, they did the mapping as my muddy reputation was somewhat legendary.

 Needless to say, the museum never called and I drove around with the skeleton in my trunk for a few months until my car caught on fire.  Then I moved him into my house.

 A few days later I heard a scream from my bedroom. It was my girlfriend.

 “What’s that,” she asked.

 “A skeleton” I said.

 “It’s in your closet!”

 “Everyone has skeletons in their  closets,” I said.

 “I’m out of here.” She said.

 She was right. I got the Musqueum  band and we arranged a respectful reburial. There were about a hundred band members at the funeral. Overhead, I spotted two bald eagles overseeing the procession. As the corpse was lowered into the grave, they bowed their heads and flew away.

 Mike Broderick WAS the Employment Specialist for the Neil Squire Society in Burnaby where he FOUND employment for people with physical disabilities.
HE IS NOW SEEKING OTHER OPPORTUNITIES.
He remains an active ambassador with the Vancouver Board of Trade and a member of the Labour Task Force of the Burnaby Board of Trade He does some work as a field Archaeologist and is a fitness instructor and frequent contributor of fitness humour articles to alive magazine in Port Coquitlam. You can reach him at home at
michael_broderick@telus.net  or at 604-464-4105
If you’re looking for a career change, he is the Spin Doctor and can give you a resume makeover at competitive rates .
Apparently 22% of companies in the Greater Vancouver area will be hiring within the next month. Get your resumes ready.

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One Response to “DIGGING UP HUMAN CORPSES”

  1. energywriter Says:

    Amazing memories. You can make even the most serious topics funny.

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