Kristin Wilson: “The Man in the Can: Historic Cemetery Excavation in Roanoke, Virginia”

kristinwilson2Please join SCAS on February 18, at 7:30 pm at the Scotts Valley Library for an exciting talk by Kristin Wilson titled “The Man in the Can: Historic Cemetery Excavation in Roanoke, Virginia.”

When the City of Roanoke, Virginia, decided to turn a verdant cow pasture in the hills into a flat industrial complex to attract businesses to their small community, they made an unexpected discovery: the long-forgotten, unmarked family cemetery containing one of their more notorious denizens. The Oliver family was prominent for being among the original settlers but one of the second-generation sons was more well-known for his colorful lifestyle. Yelverton, or “Yellie,” loved to imbibe and gamble; he spent his career starting horse tracks around the country. He also bought himself a pricey cast-iron coffin for the inevitable day in which he would be laid to rest next to his wife on the hilltop behind the home they built together.

Clink! One hundred fifty years later a shovel hit metal and Wilson’s CRM crew uncovered a half-pickled, half-mummified Yellie, waistcoat, pocket watch, Lincoln-beard and all, sitting pretty in his fancy casket. His wife’s adjacent grave, by contrast, contained nothing more than two gold teeth. These were not the only surprises to be revealed in this excavation. The upcoming talk will cover more about Yellie and the other disinterred family members. It will focus on how investigators can combine historical documents, oral history, skeletal biology, and archaeology to tell stories about the past.

kristinwilson1Kristin received her B.A. from Georgia Southern University, her M.A. from University of South Carolina, and her Ph.D. from Georgia State University. Dr. Wilson began working in archaeology 24 years ago. She focused on skeletal remains, sometimes consulting with law enforcement on human identification. Today she teaches Anthropology at Cabrillo College, is Chair of the department, and conducts biocultural research on the living more often than on the dead. She is the mother of two young boys and her pastimes include backpacking, capoeira, snowboarding, and, lately, editing the first draft of a thriller novel that draws from her experiences with bones and bodies.

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