A 160-year-old mummy is being laid to rest again this weekend after her unbelievable discovery in Queens five years ago. NY1's Ruschell Boone filed the following report.
Pastor Kimberly Detherage and some parishonners at St. Mark African Methodist Episcopal Church are planning the final details of a funeral serveral years in the making.
"It's time to lay her earthly body to rest," Detherage said.
The woman being buried is now known as the Iron Coffin Lady. Archaeologists determined she is a 30-something African-American who died in the 1850s.
Her mumified body was discovered five years ago when a construction crew accidentally dug up her steel coffin while building apartments at 90-15 Corona Ave.
The site was the original St. Mark Church and African burial ground. It was founded in 1828 by the United African Society of Long Island.
Many church members were not aware of the Elmhurst location.
"Because of her and because of the finding of her, our church has had a renewed fervor in learning more about who we are and who we were," Detherage said. "We lost some of the history throughout the years."
Researchers believe the woman was born in the 1820s and lived in a part of Newtown, which is now called Elmhurst, Queens.
Forensic archaeologist Scott Warnasch says the woman's body was so well-preserved, investigators initially thought she might have been a recent homicide victim. But he knew right away she was not because of her elaborate coffin.
Warnasch and a research team spent years investigating the woman. While they don't know exactly who she was, they know some details about her and how she died.
"She had apparently died of smallpox," Warnasch said.
Fifteen other remains were also found at the site. Detherage and the developer have been negotiatiating a deal to build a memorial there. The city says all construction has been halted there until both sides come to an agreement.
Meanwhile, after a weekend of exhibits and tributes at the church, a funeral will be held on Sunday at 4 p.m. for the Iron Coffin Lady.