Evidence found of early autopsy in 1604

Nov. 6, 2006 at 12:38 PM   |   Comments

BAR HARBOR, Maine, Nov. 6 (UPI) -- Forensic anthropologists in Maine said they have found the earliest skeletal evidence of autopsy procedures on a small island in the St. Croix River.

The anthropologists said the remains, located in what is now a part of Acadia National Park, were of fur traders who died of scurvy in 1604, The Washington Post reported Monday. They said they found a cranium that had been cut by a saw, separating the skullcap.

One of the fur traders' leaders, Samuel de Champlain, had written in his 1613 memoirs: "We could find no remedies to cure these maladies."

"We opened several of them to determine the cause of their illness," he wrote.

The researchers said there have been written records of autopsies dating back further than the find, but none with skeletal evidence.

"It's the holy grail for a forensic physical anthropologist or historical archaeologist to find this kind of evidence" said lead anthropologist Thomas Crist of Utica College. "It just doesn't happen every day."

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