As a kid, I enjoyed digging through the yard around my house. Somehow, I was convinced that I would find a pot of gold, a chest filled with gems, or some bones. It did not matter that the ground was recently dug through by all those people who built the house. They must have overlooked it. They were not looking for it, but I was. Where there is a will, there is a way. Or so they will have you believe. Unfortunately, I was unable to excavate anything of interest. Maybe that is why, even though I would have loved to work in Egypt and other ancient cities, I decided not to become an archeologist like a couple of my high-school friends. I could not handle the disappointment of not discovering anything.
Not too long ago, I heard about a newly discovered burial place underneath a school in Florida. Someone sent in a tip, and within days, it was confirmed by geophysical technicians that there were more than a hundred graves on the grounds of C. Leon King High School. What was surprising to me was that the initial investigation revealed that the caskets were buried only three to five feet deep. That sounds like something easy to unearth. When archived records and blueprints were consulted, it turned out that the school was built on top of Ridgewood Cemetery.
The school district reacted pretty quickly, fenced off an agricultural lab building, and vowed to tear it down in order to preserve the peace and give respect to the diseased. Once all these graves were discovered, the medical examiner’s office came into possession of the school grounds. It will be up to them to either keep the land or give it back to the school. I was unable to find the verdict. The decision might not have been made yet. All parties involved seemed to be dedicated to doing what is “right” and honoring the dead. While I deeply believe in respecting those that are no longer with us, I wonder if it is necessary to close the school. Think about all the teachers and staff that will be laid off. Think about all the students that will have to be moved to other schools, which are already understaffed.
Ridgewood Cemetery came to be in 1942. It was meant for poor African-Americans living in the area. Less than two decades later, in 1960, the high-school was opened. While only around 140 graves were mapped out by the radars, the cemetery records put the number of people buried there at more than 200. Even though there are a few explanations for this phenomenon, we are not sure what happened to the missing coffins. They might be buried underneath the agricultural building, they might have disintegrated (small babies), or they might have been moved to another cemetery. The agricultural lab building was erected in the late 1970s.
A day or two after hearing about the school cemetery, I read about newly discovered Egyptian mummies. It definitely made me pause and wonder. While it definitely is concerning to know that a cemetery can be turned into a school in just two decades, I cannot reconcile with the fact that some people are thought to deserve more peace once they are dead than others.
Hundreds of mummified animals were unearthed in Egypt and are now on display. (Click on the hyperlink to view the photos.) Among those discovered was the biggest scarab in the world and at least two lion cubs. Those were found near catacombs for mummified cats and are said to be from the seventh century before Christ (i.e. 28 centuries ago). Not every mummy was identified, so there is a possibility that there are cheetahs, tigers, and leopards among the dug up mummies.
Before you tell me that those two cases are not the same, I would like to ask you why do we value animals less than humans? Also, if you insist that humans are more worthy of respect than animals, I would like to tell you that the same thing happens to human mummies in Egypt (and other ancient places). About a month before the animal mummies were discovered, a team of Egyptian scientists unearthed 30 sarcophagi containing human mummies. They were thrilled because it was finally something discovered by them and not the foreigners. These coffins were found only three feet below the sand, similar to the graves in Florida, but are believed to be approximately 3,000 years old.
The plan is to restore the mummies and then move them into a museum, separate from the coffins, which will land in another exhibit.
“They will be moved to the Grand Egyptian Museum, which will be opening at the end of 2020, as a new surprise for our visitors,” said the Egyptian Minister Antiquities, El-Enany.
The country of Egypt hopes those excavations will bring tourists back. How morbid is that?
Why are we so worried about human remains from 70-some years ago, but not the ones from 3,000 years ago? Are some bodies “dead-er” than others? Should we put a time cap on respect? We are to learn about ancient cultures and believes from those mummies, but is it really THAT important? Could we maybe learn quickly and be as delicate as we can and then give them a proper burial?
How do you want your remains to be handled once you die?
Do you care what happens to your body after you pass away?
Would you mind if your body was used for science?
How about being put in a glass box at a museum for everyone to see?
If you wish to be laid to rest in a cemetery, have you thought of what the land might be turned into in the future? Would you care?
Should the school be shut down and the land turned into a proper cemetery?
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