A team of Quinnipiac University diagnostic imaging professors will x-ray the remains of Fortune, an African-American man who was enslaved by a Waterbury bone surgeon in the 1700s, to help determine how he died. The x-raying will be done on Monday, March 11, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Center for Anthropological Research, Room 108 of the Clarice L. Buckman Center on Quinnipiac’s Mount Carmel Campus. The project is being done in collaboration with the Mattatuck Museum, where Fortune has been the subject of an exhibit since 2003.
“We plan to perform a comprehensive x-ray and anthropological study of Fortune’s skeleton,” said Professor Gerald Conlogue, co-director of the Bioanthropology Research Institute at Quinnipiac. “Since Fortune is going to be buried in May, it’s important that we get as much documentation as possible.”
Fortune, his wife, Dinah, and their three children were the legal property of Dr. Preserved Porter, a Waterbury physician. Fortune also had an older son, Africa, whose mother was not known. Fortune and his family lived on Porter’s farm, east of the center of the city. It’s believed that while Porter tended to his medical practice, Fortune may have worked on the doctor’s farm, which produced rye, Indian corn, onions, potatoes, apples, beef, hogs, cider, hay, oats and buckwheat. Dinah is believed to have worked in the Porter’s home, cooking and cleaning. It’s believed that Fortune and his family were hired out on occasion to work in other families’ homes. Fortune, who was about 60 years old, died in 1798 and it’s believed that his children were sold off shortly after his death. By 1800, only Dinah remained in the Porter household.
After Fortune’s death, Porter prepared his skeleton to serve the study of anatomy, according to the Mattatuck Museum. Fortune’s bones have provided scientific evidence to document the circumstances of his life. His rugged bone structure suggests that he was powerful man accustomed to rigorous farm work. Early historians wrote that Fortune drowned after falling into the Naugatuck River, but the circumstances surrounding his death are controversial.
Conlogue and his colleagues, Natalie Pelletier, clinical assistant professor of diagnostic imaging, and Robert Lombardo, an adjunct professor of diagnostic imaging, will work with Jaime Ullinger, an assistant professor of anthropology at Quinnipiac and her students, and Richard Gonzalez, a forensic anthropologist and assistant professor of medical sciences in the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac, to examine Fortune’s skeleton to learn more about his life and death.
Ullinger and her students will perform a bioanthropological analysis. In addition, she will use a 3D scanning camera that will produce data that can be used for a facial reconstruction. Gonzalez will perform a forensic anthropological analysis to confirm that the skeleton in fact represent the remains of Fortune and to determine a possible cause and manner of death.
“They will produce a record that will last forever,” Conlogue said. “This is an interdisciplinary educational project that will prove to be very beneficial.”
In addition to the 3D scanning, the researchers will use a 3D printer that makes replicas of the bones, demonstrating pathology. Additional medical technology will enable them to reconstruct Fortune’s face.
“I think the facial reconstruction will be wonderful,” Conlogue said. “People can really identify with something you can put a face to.”