Part detective story, part true-life drama, “Secrets of the Dead” unearths evidence from around the world, challenging prevailing ideas and throwing fresh light on unexplained events. Using the most up-to-date science in the laboratory and in the field, scientists and researchers examine the missing pieces of each puzzle, completing the picture of what had been merely an assemblage of suppositions.
“The Woman in the Iron Coffin,” premiering Wednesday, Oct. 3, at 9:30 p.m., follows a team of forensic experts as they investigate the preserved remains of a young African American woman from 19th century New York and reveal the little-known story of early America’s free black communities.
On October 4, 2011, construction workers were shocked to uncover human remains in an abandoned lot in the Elmhurst neighborhood of Queens, New York. 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 abolition of slavery. But who was she? Follow 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.