Skull found at Philadelphia high school prompts districtwide search

·2 min read

The School District of Philadelphia is asking high school principals and other officials to search for skeletal remains in their buildings after the discovery of a human skull at Central High School.

Driving the news: The school district announced the finding of the "human skeletal item," believed to have belonged to a Native American male, on Friday. The district told Axios that a staff member originally discovered the skull in June.

  • Now district officials are working with the Department of Interior and Temple University to repatriate the remains.

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What they're saying: District officials said the skull was likely used as a teaching tool from the mid-1850s to the early to mid-1900s.

  • The district said it hasn't used human skeletons in lessons for at least a decade.

  • "Despite the fact that this individual is long deceased, they were an individual who was a member of a community," Kimberly Williams, chair of Temple's Anthropology Department, said in a statement.

The big picture: Mishandling of Indigenous remains isn't uncommon in American history, especially in the context of forced residential boarding schools.

Of note: Researchers in the 19th century used to collect skulls and conduct experiments to promote white supremacy. The trade and selling of crania propelled the practice.

Zoom in: The city has already had to grapple with the discovery of human remains this year.

This past May, the city revealed its discovery that in 2017, Thomas Farley, the former health commissioner, ordered a separate set of MOVE bombing victims' remains to be cremated without notifying family members.

What's next: The school district asked high school principals to conduct surveys of any skeletal teaching collections within their schools by Nov. 5, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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