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Tree Growth Hampers Skeleton Search at Duffy's Cut

After unearthing pieces of a new skeleton in September, the research crew at Duffy's Cut hope to find the rest.

As Dr. William Watson dug in the ground where they had found a skull, vertebrae and jaw bones Sept. 16, he seems stumped as to why he couldn't find more.

"Where is this guy?" Watson asked.

After 200-plus years, the remains of the Irish railroad—called "SK005" despite being the seventh body recovered at the site—has been covered by much soil and had a tree grow over it. This makes the job for Watson and his team much more difficult.

The tree's roots, some as thick as four inches, grew right through his body and spread his bones all apart, and in some cases even split them into pieces. They found SK005's leg approximately two years ago, but they couldn't continue their dig because of the danger of digging under a tree measuring almost 3 feet in diameter and well over 40 feet high. While they waited for the tree to be removed, they continued to dig in other areas. 

When they started digging under the base of the tree and found SK005's bones, the jaw bones and teeth that they found were a huge discovery. The new bones give the team, including forensic dentists, the ability to do genetic testing in hopes of identifying the body. They have been able to clearly identify one male recovered from Duffy's Cut and contacted his descendants. 

marion1 October 05, 2011 at 01:17 AM
This is fascinating! Please keep us updated as the research continues. Sad to think that these men came to America for a better life and met such a tragic end. All these years we thought they died from disease---the technology that assists the researchers has come so far. Amazing!

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