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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Where is the grave located? Is it next to a former church, in an isolated cemetery, or by itself?

How was the grave dug? A rectangular, uniform shape indicates a formal burial.

How was the body placed in the grave? Careful positioning of the body indicates ritual burial.

Is there evidence of a shroud? If the body was wrapped and tied in a length of cloth for burial (a shroud), the knees and ankles lie close together in the grave. Pins, or green stains left by pins in burial clothes or wrappings, also reveal preparation of the body.

Is there evidence of a coffin? Wood is sometimes but rarely preserved. As a wooden coffin deteriorates, the wood and nails with which it was built may leave remnants or stains in the soil.

Were other objects found with the bones? Were they already in the soil when the grave was dug, like pieces or pottery, pipes, or bricks? Or, were they put there intentionally, like a favorite tobacco pipe or a rosary? Colonial burials typically did not include personal objects.