04 July 2010

For all your bone needs

A couple of weeks ago we went to Aydin, the city in western Turkey that was named after me. Our visit included a stop at the local cemetery where my father, his father and my aunt are buried. At one point while looking for snail shells among the graves, I noticed a small bone fragment, picked it up and asked the attendant who was accompanying us tongue-in-cheek if it was a human bone. He said that it was probably something the stray dogs had brought in. Then he added that there was nevertheless an ossuary within the cemetery and took us to see it.

KemikMahzeni1

The ossuary was a concrete vault dug into the ground; the Turkish sign in front of it referred to it as a "bone cellar". Interestingly, the bones of men and women were kept in separate vaults.

The attendant explained that the bones from unclaimed graves or of those who are buried at the expense of the local government are exhumed after 5 years of burial and deposited in the ossuary. Here are the contents of one of the vaults photographed thru the metal grate on top of it.

KemikMahzeni2

According to the attendant, local university students with legitimate needs for bones are occasionally given permission to retrieve what they need from the ossuary. I will keep that in mind for future projects.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Back when I was working with Conch. Soc. and Michael P. Kerney on mapping the distribution of the non-marine mollusks of the British Isles, I spent quite a lot of time in churchyards looking for snails or snail shells, especially looking at fresh molehills and anthills for shells of the subterranean species Ceciliodes acicula. In some churchyards I saw small bone fragments in the soil, and I am sure they were pieces of human bone. Of course some of those churchyards were many hundreds of years old; it's not surprising that this happens.

best,

Susan J. Hewitt