Saturday, November 28, 2020

Uncovering the mystery of the 132-year-old rifle

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Michael Whyte
Crime Scene Officer and Fingerprint Expert with over 7 years experience in Crime Scene Investigation and Latent Print Analysis. The opinions or assertions contained on this site are the private views of the author and are not to be construed as those of any professional organisation or policing body.
- Forensic Podcast -

Forensic experts begin examining Winchester found propped up against a tree in Nevada desert in bid to unravel its past.

Forensic experts and archaeologists are desperately trying to discover the origins of a 132-year-old rifle found propped up against a tree in the Nevada wilderness.

The .44-40 calibre Winchester rifle was found frozen in time on a remote rocky outcrop in the heart of the Grand Basin National Park.

Archaeologists discovered the gun, which was manufactured in 1882, leaning against a juniper tree while they were carrying out surveys.

Now they are poring over old newspaper cuttings and historical texts to try and identify its original owner, while forensic experts are taking what clues they can from the gun itself to try and understand how it came to rest against the tree.

The rusted and decaying butt of the rifle reveals it was let exposed to the elements for more than 100 years

The gun barrel (pictured) was heavily rusted, indicating it had sat exposed to wet weather for a long period of time

Archaeologist Eva Jensen removes dirt from around the butt of the Winchester rifle, found as it is pictured propped up against a tree

Experts do not yet know for certain how long it had been there, but with its wooden base discoloured and partially buried and the metal barrel rusted, it is possible the rifle could have been undisturbed for more than a century. 

Archaeologist Eva Jensen, whose research party discovered the rifle, is now intent on solving the mystery.

She has begun poring over the newspapers printed at the time – the Ward Reflex and White Pine County Record – which both covered the area’s then-mining industry, looking through historical bills of sale, as well as family histories, the Los Angeles Times reported.

She said: ‘One thing we all assumed was that someone here had a very bad day. One of the staff said, “Why do you set your gun down and forget where you put it? That just doesn’t happen”.’

The Washington Post reports that the Great Basin was a mining site at the time the gun was manufactured, but that farming was also common in the area and the rifle may also have been used for game hunting.

In 1882, 25,000 Winchester rifles of that make were produced costing about $25 each, indicating that they were in plentiful supply.

The newspaper quotes Basin National Park chief of interpretation Nichole Andler as saying: ‘It looked like someone propped it up there, sat down to have their lunch and got up to walk off without it.

Discovery: The .44-40 calibre Winchester rifle was found frozen in time in the heart of the Grand Basin National Park

The rifle, known as ‘The gun that won the West’ is one of the most popular selling rifles in US history

‘It probably has a very good and interesting story, but it probably is a story that could have happened to almost anyone living this sort of extraordinary existence out here in the Great Basin Desert.’

Experts are scouring local archives in a bid to piece together the history of the weapon, which was found unloaded in November.

A statement on the National Park’s Facebook page says: ‘The park will provide a viewing opportunity for the community before sending the rifle to conservators to stabilize the wood and apply museum conservation techniques.

‘The treatment will keep the gun looking as it was found and prevent further deterioration.’

Source: Daily Mail

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