A 19th-century shipwreck and human remains were uncovered as the Mississippi River recedes
- Drought has unearthed a sunken 19th-century shipwreck and human remains in the Mississippi River.
- The Mississippi River is receding to historic lows amid drought across the Midwest.
A prolonged drought has dried up the Mississippi River, revealing a centuries-old shipwreck and skeletal remains.
The river, a major shipping route, reached record-low levels this week amid drought conditions. According to a growing body of research, rising global temperatures due to burning of fossil fuels enhance evaporation, making droughts more severe.
In early October, low water levels revealed the old sunken ship along the banks of the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Archaeologists believe these remains are from a ferry that sunk in the late 19th or early 20th century, The Associated Press reported.
Though this is the first time the ship has been fully exposed, it's not a new discovery. Small parts of the vessel emerged from low waters in the 1990s.
"At that time the vessel was completely full of mud and there was mud all around it so only the very tip tops of the sides were visible," Chip McGimsey, Louisiana's state archaeologist, told the AP. "They had to move a lot of dirt just to get some narrow windows in to see bits and pieces," McGimsey said.
McGimsey thinks the ship could be the Brookhill Ferry, which carried people and possibly horse-drawn wagons across the Mississippi, until it sunk in a storm in 1915, according to news stories from the State Times archives.
Shrinking waters also revealed skeletal remains
Gripped by drought, the Mississippi River's receding waters also led to a more gruesome discovery. On Saturday, a woman found human remains while searching for rocks with her family on the banks of the drought-stricken river. The remains included a lower jawbone, rib bones, and some unidentified bone pieces, Scotty Meredith, Coahoma County's chief medical examiner, told CNN.
"Because these water levels are so low that we knew it was only a short matter of time before human remains were found," Crystal Foster, the woman who found the remains, told WMC.
The discovery in Mississippi comes after multiple sets of human remains surfaced in recent months in Nevada's Lake Mead — the country's largest reservoir. Over the summer, several skeletal remains were found in the lake, which fell to historically low levels amid climate change-fueled drought.
As human-caused climate change warms the planet and intensifies droughts, experts say more remnants of the past may be unearthed by receding waters.
Though findings that were long-submerged can be grim, shrinking bodies of water could be a boon for experts tasked with solving missing persons cases, according to Jennifer Byrnes, a forensic anthropologist who consults with the Clark County coroner's office, which reviews deaths in Lake Mead.
"A big body of water disappearing is going to help us, from a forensic perspective," Byrnes told Insider.
Eric Bartelink, a forensic anthropologist at California State University's Chico Human Identification Lab, previously told Insider the dropping water levels have uncovered remains that have been hiding beneath the surface for years.
"For us, it's really just potentially more opportunities to find missing persons and more likelihood that certain cases are going to be discovered," he said, adding, "It's just going to reveal more things that were in water that you normally wouldn't have access to very easily."
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