The bones of at least one black teenager killed in the 1985 police bombing in Philadelphia are being used as a “case study” in an online anthropology course — taught by an Ivy League professor who called the remains “juicy.”
The charred fragments are featured in the free online course “REAL BONES: Adventures in Forensic Anthropology” filmed in 2019 and taught by Janet Monge, a University of Pennsylvania adjunct professor and a visiting professor at Princeton.
In the final lecture in the series, she picks up the bones — a femur and a pelvis originally found fused to a pair of jeans — and holds them up to the camera.
“The bones are, I mean, we would say, like, ‘juicy. You know, meaning that you can tell that they are of a recently deceased individual,” Monge says. She describes them as smelling “like just kind of greasy like an older style grease.”
The remains have never been formally identified but analysts believe they belong to a small woman between the ages of 17 and 20 — who was one of 11 people killed when Philly police bombed a townhouse during a fight with a black eco-liberation group called MOVE.
Authorities at the time were attempting to evict members from the organization’s compound, resulting in a blaze that razed an entire neighborhood. Five of the dead were children and teenagers.
Monge’s course focuses on “lost personhood” — when an individual cannot be identified through their decomposed remains. The bones of the “contentious individual” from the bombing served as its main “case study.”
Monge is also a curator and “keeper” for the University of Pennsylvania’s physical anthropology department, which owns the bones.
The course is offered online by Princeton University and is open to anyone for free via the educational video site Coursera.
Critics blasted the nature of the course.
“Nobody said you can do that, holding up their bones for the camera,” Michael Africa, Jr., a current MOVE member, told The Guardian. “That’s not how we process our dead. This is beyond words.”
The city of Philadelphia has formally apologized for the deadly bombing. A day of remembrance of the bombing is planned for mid-May.