What did Vagelli learn about this Thomas Weir? He was an adult male about 5 feet 5 inches tall, which was determined using the statistical program FORDISC by measuring the left femur and tibia.
He was between 23 years old and 39 years old at death, said Vagelli. The age estimate was determined by analyzing the clavicles, pubic symphyses, and the sacrum. Despite the broad age estimation determined by the skeletal analysis, Weir most likely was not older than 29 given the “2” visible on the nameplate on his casket.
Pathologies were determined by visually inspecting each bone including teeth, taking note of any abnormalities. His skeletal remains showed notable osteo-pathology or bone disease. Weir’s dental inventory determined that three teeth were missing before death and one was post-mortem, according to Vagelli. The disruption of enamel formation of the incisors could indicate a disease or tooth infection.
The presence of protrusions of the intervertebral discs into vertebrae in Weir’s lower back could indicate weakened endplates due to stress or direct trauma. Indications of osteoarthritis vertebral pathologies suggest that Weir may have participated in activities that required heavy lifting.
In addition, Vagelli reported, an area showing healing in the right tibia indicates Weir suffered either some type of significant injury, infection, or tumor in his right leg.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, coffins in Philadelphia were made by cabinetmakers and often exhibited imported English decorative hardware such as inscription plates and handles, said Vagelli. Only a few of the unearthed coffins still had metal plates displaying some information such as the name and date and age of death. The plates were generally poorly preserved and only partial information was distinguishable.
The coffin and remains of Weir are examples of one of these cases, explained Vagelli. Weir was buried in a wooden coffin of hexagonal style, which displayed decorative hardware including a metal inscription plate and handles. It’s hexagonal design (versus a simpler square one), its decorative hardware, and the “Mr.” inscription on the nameplate indicates Weir had some social standing.
“The coffin style suggested that Weir had a certain amount of wealth,” Vagelli said.
Unfortunately, despite her efforts, available resources could not determine this Thomas Weir's true identity, said Vagelli.
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