Secrets of the Dead: The Woman in the Iron Coffin

Secrets of the Dead: The Woman in the Iron Coffin

Wed, 10/03/2018 - 10:00pm - 11:00pm

 Professor Jerry Conlogue and forensic archaeologist Scott Warnasch examining the “Woman in the Iron Coffin” through a virtual autopsy.

Courtesy of Impossible Factual

A team of forensic experts investigates the preserved remains of a young African American woman from 19th century New York.

Their investigation reveals the little-known story of early America’s free black communities. Secrets of the Dead: The Woman in the Iron Coffin premieres Wednesday, October 3, 2018 at 10 p.m. on WXXI-TV. At the intersection of science and history, Secrets of the Dead uses the latest scientific discoveries to challenge prevailing ideas and throw fresh light on unexplained historical events. 

In the hour-long episode, construction workers were shocked to uncover human remains in an abandoned lot in the Elmhurst neighborhood of Queens, New York in 2011. So great was the level of preservation, witnesses first assumed they had stumbled upon a recent homicide. Forensic analysis, however, revealed a remarkably different story. Buried in an elaborate and expensive iron coffin, the body belonged to a young African American woman who died in the first half of the 19th century, before the Civil War and the federal abolishment of slavery. But who was she? 

Secrets of the Dead: The Woman in the Iron Coffin  follows forensic archaeologist Scott Warnasch and a team of historians and scientists as they investigate this woman’s story and the time in which she lived, revealing a vivid picture of what life was like for free African American people in the North.