‘SECRETS OF THE CAMPUS CADAVERS’

By Paul Gabrielsen, science writer, and Brooke Adams, communications specialist for University Marketing & Communications

On April 20, 2016, not long after renovation work began on the Crocker Science Center, University of Utah historical architect Charles Shepherd found something unexpected at the excavation site. At first glance in the morning light, he thought it might have been a rock. On closer inspection, though, he found it was a human skull.

It turns out that the building, which has been part of the U since 1933, has been hiding a secret all this time.

The skull was just one of more than 1,000 bones and bone fragments eventually excavated and recovered from the site as part of a nearly yearlong investigation into who the remains may have belonged to and how they ended up in the soil beneath one of the U’s most historic buildings. The remains were once anatomical cadavers, investigators found, most likely used by the U medical school for dissection and buried sometime between 1905 and 1933.

To tell the story of the bones and the investigation into their origins, University Marketing & Communications has launched a seven-part podcast series titled “Secrets of the Campus Cadavers.” New episodes will be available each Tuesday through Mar. 20. Find the podcast on iTunes here and the RSS feed, which can be read by podcast players, here. Find the audio files and transcripts of each episode here.

Cadavers through history

“Secrets of the Campus Cadavers” takes listeners from the moment of discovery of the remains through their excavation by archaeologists from SWCA Environmental Consultants, their analysis by the Utah state forensic anthropologist and their eventual deposition in the U’s anthropology collections. Along the way, the podcast explores historical sources of cadavers for medical schools, the history of the U medical school, and how cadavers are used and respectfully handled at the university today.

Listeners will hear from the investigators, including:

  • Charles Shepherd, historical architect, University of Utah. Shepherd first discovered the remains and has overseen the U’s response to the discovery.
  • Derinna Kopp, forensic anthropologist, State of Utah. Kopp analyzed the bones to determine their age, how many people were represented, their genders and ages, the methods used in their dissection and their possible life histories.
  • Kelly Beck, archaeologist, SWCA Environmental Consultants. Beck led the excavation of the archaeological site on Presidents Circle and the recovery of the human remains.
  • Kerry Peterson, director, University of Utah body donor program. Peterson oversees cadaver use at the U today and provided insight into current dissection practices.
  • Kate Hovanes, historian, SWCA Environmental Consultants. Hovanes researched the history of cadaver use in the 19th and 20th centuries as well as how the early U medical school obtained and used anatomical cadavers.

U medical student Dani Golomb and anthropology department chair Leslie Knapp also appear.

How to listen

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here, or search for “Secrets of the Campus Cadavers.”

Find the podcast on Stitcher here.

Use this RSS feed to access the podcast using any other podcast player.