What happened to the graves of the people who died in Jonestown before November 1978?

Eight people died of natural causes in Jonestown between August 1977 and November 1978, all of natural causes. Seven of these deaths were of seniors – between the ages of 63 and 80 – and one was an infant who died less than two weeks after birth.

The bodies were apparently not all buried in one place, though, and there may not have been a formally-designated graveyard. Lynetta Jones, the mother of Jim Jones, died in December 1977 and was buried in a place of honor near her son’s cabin. On the other hand, the government of Guyana ordered one body – likely that of Lela Murphy – to be dug up and reburied because the first grave was too close to a water supply.

There is no indication that any of these graves were located, their contents exhumed, and the bodies repatriated to the United States after the deaths of November 18. On the contrary, the few people who might have known about the graves – the survivors of the deaths who were allowed to return to Jonestown in its aftermath – had the more immediate task of identifying the bodies that they could among the 909 that were lying under the jungle sun. These survivors stayed in Jonestown only a few hours before flying to Georgetown and, eventually, on to the United States.

It is almost certainly the case that these graves are now part of the jungle which has reclaimed the Jonestown site.

Last modified on June 1st, 2017.
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