Nearly 400 Year-Old Remains Of Teen Found At St. Mary's Fort Site

ST. MARY’S CITY, Md. – The Historic St. Mary’s City (HSMC) Department of Research and Collections has uncovered the human remains of a young European man, believed to have been buried in the late 1630s. The remains were found approximately 30 feet outside of what once was St. Mary’s Fort. This discovery may be one of the oldest colonial burials found in Maryland.

Curator of Biological Anthropology Douglas Owsley and Biological Anthropologist Kari Bruwelheide, both of the Smithsonian Institution, joined HSMC to begin studying the remains to learn more about the young man. It has been estimated that he was 15 – 16 years old at the time of his death. 

The individual was directly buried in the ground without a coffin or burial shroud. His lack of formal burial could speak to not having family or people who cared for him in the colony. The life, death, and burial of this person can provide valuable insights into the early settlers of Maryland. Travis Parno, Acting Executive Director and Director of Research and Collections said, “The remarkable discovery of the remains of one of Maryland’s first colonizers is an important opportunity to learn about an individual who probably never appeared in the historical record. Archaeology and forensic anthropology will help us bring life and voice to a young man from the earliest period of the Maryland colony, a time when written records were sparse.” 

The remains will undergo cleaning and be transported to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History for further analysis by Owlsley and Bruwelheide.

St. Mary’s Fort Site is currently closed to tours and public access due to the ongoing removal of remains. There is no word on when the site will reopen at this time.

The palisaded St. Mary’s Fort was erected in 1634 by the first wave of European settlers who founded Maryland. The site, which spans an area approximately the size of a football field, is located in Historic St. Mary’s City (HSMC) in Southern Maryland.

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  1. What is heartbreaking is the young man was possibly thousands of miles from home and any loved ones. Life was short and brutish back then with more than enough misery to go around. The lack of care of his mortal remains tells me people were possibly just trying to survive and didn’t have enough leftover to care for someone else. I hope DNA testing is done to see if he has any familial descendants so that his memory will live on.

  2. if you call a mortician , they’re going to tell you to call the police, that the police have to let them have the body. Watch out, the police are awfully intrusive, its an unpleasant experience. The police don’t mind arresting somebody sobbing at the hour of death?

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