Eight skeletons exhumed at old Otago cemetery

The area of the Lawrence Cemetery where eight skeletal remains have been uncovered. - Photo: Supplied.

Archaeologists have discovered eight sets of skeletal remains in an historic cemetery in the Otago town of Lawrence.

University of Otago Department of Anatomy professor Hallie Buckley said DNA analyses of remains had led to interesting discoveries.

"In the old cemetery we wanted to establish whether there are still graves present after supposed [previous] exhumations occurred when the area was closed.

"Local legend was that one person was left behind but on the first few days on site we've confirmed there were at least four people left behind."

The exhumation is called the Otago Historic Cemeteries Bioarchaeology Project. The Lawrence Cemetery closed in 1867 at the Chinese area of the town's Gabriel Street Cemetery.

Investigations continued on three grave sites, prof Buckley said.

"In the new cemetery the team are looking to establish whether there are graves in and around the Chinese section which likely also includes the graves of other marginalised people.

"We want to create a detailed picture of what life was like at the time of the gold rush in the early 1860s. The remains can reveal aspects of people's health, diet and overall quality of life," professor Buckley said.

Department of Anthropology and Archaeology professor Peter Petchey said the exhumation would also show the make up of the population and the burial traditions of the time.

The aim was to compare findings with other research which involved similar processes at St John's Burial Ground in Milton in 2016.

"Both projects have required thorough consultation processes with respect for the dead of utmost importance," prof Petchey said.


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