Cemetery outside the walls of San Felipe del Morro Fort
José L.

In 1855, Puerto Rico was struck by the cholera epidemic, killing 20,000 to 50,000 individuals – 4-10% of the total population at the time. Due to the high volume of corpses piling up and fear of the disease’s further spreading, a cemetery outside of the walls of El Morro was established. This cemetery remained untouched for over a century, due to fears that the disease might resurface. Today, however, this cemetery is in danger of being destroyed, as tourists in Old San Juan have been recently granted access to this section of the fort, uncovering human remains as they walk in the trail. My research is a rescue bioarchaeological investigation of the site, with the main objectives of collecting, analyzing, preserving, and repatriating the human remains buried here before erosion and intrusion destroy or further compromises the site and its contents. Furthermore, I plan to study the social determinants that affect predisposition and mortality of infectious disease, particularly with regards to social identity, structural violence, and inequality. Here, I will present preliminary data of the initial surveys of the site. Specifically, I present data of the magnetometer and Ground Penetrating Radar conducted this past summer, as well as the surface collection of skeletal material. Our survey confirmed the extreme erosion of the site, as evidenced by the hundreds of human bone fragments found on the surface

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