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Posted on Tue, Dec 27, 2011 : 5:54 a.m.

'Rogue' bones? Human remains discovered at EMU this summer date back to the 1800s

By Kellie Woodhouse

John Donegan never expected to find a 'rogue body' buried six feet beneath an Eastern Michigan University road this summer.

But then again, who does?

EMU's chief facilities officer and his crew discovered human bones during a routine construction dig on June 28. A recent report from Michigan State University anthropologists concludes that the bones are the remains of a woman buried more than 100 years ago.

"We find stuff all the time when we dig; there's a lot of animal bones," Donegan said. "But we didn’t expect to find human remains.

"I'll be honest with you, that’s never happened and we've moved thousands and thousands of pounds of dirt here."

Donegan, an EMU maintenance crew and a few contractors had closed Ann Street and dug an 8-foot trench in an effort to repair leaking steam pipes when they unexpectedly cut into the bones.

At first, they assumed the bones were animal remains. A further look, however, dispelled that notion.

"When we dug the trench we basically cut through the human remains and took the leg bones off," Donegan said. "So, all we really saw were the leg bones, and then when we looked at the side of the trench... and we saw the rib cage in the dirt.

"When we saw that, we realized we really ought to have somebody take a look at this."

EMU police researched the area and realized the crews were digging in a spot that was a Catholic cemetery in the 1800s.

The cemetery was relocated prior to 1900, police discovered.

But the remains of at least one "rogue body" were evidently not transferred, Donegan said.

"Apparently they missed one," he offered.

Anthropologists say the remains belonged to a woman of European descent who was between 40 and 60 years old when she died.

Along with the bones, decaying coffin wood and other burial artifacts, such as copper crosses, were unearthed.

Coffin screws indicate that the woman was buried around 1882 , according to the anthropologists' Nov. 30 report.


This 1893 map shows the former site of a Catholic cemetery that is now EMU property.

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Wed, Dec 28, 2011 : 12:33 a.m.

Interesting...there was a cemetery at Cross and Prospect also...


Tue, Dec 27, 2011 : 8:54 p.m.

Cool map. Can we have a link or once with better resolution?

Ryan J. Stanton

Tue, Dec 27, 2011 : 10:35 p.m.

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Tue, Dec 27, 2011 : 8 p.m.

I've seen it stated in scientific articles that we are the only species with funerary practices (like funerals and burials). Believable. However, there are complications - like this one. God may take our immortal souls but He forgot to provide space for our discarded remains. Jesus's advice (Let the dead bury the dead.) is also unhelpful. So I guess we're on our own when it comes to finding a solution. There are two competing notions: (1) Funeral directors want cemeteries. (2) Real estate developers want: land fills. Combining these two ideas provides the best long-term solution which would greatly reduce the chance of disinterring human remains. All cemeteries must start our as pits not less than 18 feet deep. One portion of these pits would be for trash only, the other section would be side-by-side burial plots. The filling would start in the center line of each pit and would proceed outward. Once fully covered, the land could be used for housing and commercial buildings - with human remains well out of reach of digging machines. Each building would bear a plaque with the names of those buried below. The other solution would be to mandate that each surviving family would take the cremated remains of loved ones into their own homes or apartments (etc). We could go back to in-home shrines and ancestor worship. Or - there's always the Soylent Green solution.


Wed, Dec 28, 2011 : 12:40 a.m.

Being flippant serves no purpose....


Tue, Dec 27, 2011 : 10:41 p.m.

You misinterpret Jesus' words. He was saying the body on Earth should not be our primary concern. We are not physical beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a spiritual experience. Jesus is less concerned with the final resting place of our physical remains than he was with the final destination of our souls.


Tue, Dec 27, 2011 : 3:59 p.m.

Will her remains be reburied or put in a museum?

5c0++ H4d13y

Wed, Dec 28, 2011 : 1:55 a.m.

Museum? Why would the remains go in a museum?


Wed, Dec 28, 2011 : 12:39 a.m.

I hope this reporter will follow up on her reburial. As a Catholic, She should be reburied by a priest. I abhor anyone being put on display after they are dead and that includes Native Americans and Mexican mummies etc. She is someone's ancestor and she deserves respect from us.


Tue, Dec 27, 2011 : 9:48 p.m.

Given that her remains were found in what used to be a Catholic cemetery, I would guess that the Bishop or St. John the Baptist will have the remains re-interred.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Tue, Dec 27, 2011 : 7:22 p.m.

Reburied, I hope. Unless she was an American Indian, in which case she will no doubt be put on display. Sick, I say. Sick. I hope she gets a decent reburial wherever the others were moved to.