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The Lost Towns Project is an ongoing archaeological enterprise to rediscover and excavate lost settlements from colonial Maryland. In 2003, researchers were examining a site called Leavy Neck in Anne Arundel County when they discovered a skull in a 17th-century cellar that was used for trash.

As the team kept excavating, they found the rest of the skeleton stuffed inside the shallow pit with enough force to displace a kneecap and curl the toes under. It became increasingly clear that the body was likely the victim of foul play.

Eventually, archaeologists became convinced they had a colonial cold case on their hands and brought in forensic anthropologist Dr. Doug Owsley to help. He identified the remains as belonging to a 16-year-old male of European descent. There were numerous signs suggesting he was in poor health, including compressed vertebrae from prolonged hard labor.

Forensic specialists concluded that the teenager was, most likely, an indentured servant. Furthermore, his right wrist suffered perimortem fractures, as if the victim tried to block a heavy blow. This, along with the quick burial, suggested murder.

Based on items surrounding the body, the boy was probably killed between 1665 and 1675. This was at a time when laws were passed to protect indentured servants from abuse. Archaeologists believe that the teenager was killed by his master, who dumped the body in the trash pit to hide his crime. The identities of both killer and victim remain a mystery for now.

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Originally posted 2017-12-13 03:22:59.