THE SKELETON found at Cobblestones Museum may have been a victim of the 1918 flu epidemic.

Grey Tuck, one of the volunteers who discovered the largely intact skeleton while cataloguing items at the old hospital in the museum grounds last week, said he thought it may have been a flu casualty who was left unburied during the height of the epidemic.

"It's drawing a long bow, but basically in November 1918 the Spanish flu epidemic hit and I've heard from two sources that they were so overworked that they didn't bury a couple of bodies out at the Greytown cemetery. They left them out under the trees.

"Then I heard from another source that sometime in the 1940s a doctor who was attached to Greytown went down there and brought back a skeleton, I presume for teaching purposes, and we think that when that person retired - because the building came to us in 1974 and was completely empty - some time after 1974 the doctor has donated them."

Advertisement

Mr Tuck and fellow volunteers Martin Hutchinson and Peter Price had been looking for a crate of chemicals in the doctor's consultation room when they stumbled upon the human bones.

"We started pottering around and found the chemicals and right next to them was a cardboard box. We opened it and saw the bones, so we closed it again and brought the chemicals over here and did what we had to do.

"Then we got talking about it and thought, 'Well, is it human or is it animal?' Eventually we contacted the local doctor, Dr Nathan, and asked him if he had some time to drop down and tell us."

It was an unexpected find because there was no record of a skeleton or bones being donated to the museum, Mr Tuck said.

"One of us opened it up and said, 'Shit, okay, it's a bone' and closed it again. We weren't expecting to turn that up."

He believed it was likely the skeleton had been used for teaching nurses at the hospital, as several bones were tied together with twine and two larger bones had illegible writing on them.

Most of the skull was missing, although the mandible and cap of the skull were present.

A medical intern confirmed the bones were human and Dr Nathan believed they were likely the bones of a young Caucasian boy, Mr Tuck said.

The police were contacted and the remains taken to Wairarapa Hospital for further analysis and DNA testing.

Mr Tuck said volunteers were working to catalogue the museum collection and had almost completed an inventory of items in the schoolhouse.