SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (News10)-A law enforcement source tells News10 that a jawbone found in a Schenectady backyard is human and could be 50 to 100 years old. News10’s Anya Tucker examined some of the history of the neighborhood where some of Schenectady’s earliest residents were apparently buried.
The discovery on April 20th had Schenectady and New York State Police sifting through dirt behind a home on Paige Street after a resident told them she found a jawbone while digging a garden. Police say they found more bones which likely belonged to animals, others were small to determine. A law enforcement source tells News10 that the jawbone is determined to be human and is now being tested for DNA, and that police are looking into old cold cases to find out who it belongs to. The same source says the jawbone is believed to be quite old-possibly between 50 to 100 years.
So, who does it belong to and why was it in someone’s backyard? News10’s Anya Tucker visited the Schenectady County Historical Society’s Museum & Library in search of some possible answers. Librarian Marietta Carr poured over old city maps; one identified a street named Cemetery Avenue which Marietta believes indicates a cemetery near the location where the bones were found.
Cemetery Avenue is today known as Westover Pl. More than a hundred years ago, this part of the Hamilton Hill section, home to a large immigrant and African American population, had at least 9 cemeteries. Anya asked if it is possible that the jawbone could be an indication of a family burial ground at the location. “Yes,” replied Marietta. “And there were quite a number of burial grounds in that area.”
Uncovering remains is not unusual during excavations or construction. In 1974 a burial ground for cholera victims, was discovered on Hulett Street not far from where the most recent vines were found. “Making the space usable for today, things from the past come up. And it is possible that something disturbed the area enough that you know things shifted, and something came up closer to the surface,” the librarian added.
With little information at this point, the jawbone and its owner remain a mystery. But the subject opens to door to honoring the history of a city and its long-ago inhabitants.