A little known fact about historic cemeteries is that they were often purposefully placed on land lot lines. This type of land usage seems to have been based on common sense, as land owners established family cemeteries on the edges of their property in places that were least likely to hinder agricultural activities. Several examples from Middle Georgia are discussed, although placing cemeteries on the furthest edges of property lines was common across the Southeast, and quite possibly across the nation.
Many people have encountered one of the editions of James Deetz’s In Small Things Forgotten: The Archaeology of Early American Life, which was first published in 1977 and is still an insightful volume. Dr. Deetz discusses, among many other things, the importance of chronology and dating to the study of the past. He also argues that small things are extremely important to understanding the past, giving examples of how we may continue behaviors with roots in the past in everyday life today.
Did you know that Martin Luther King, Jr.’s remains have been buried twice? At his funeral in 1968, they were buried at South-View Cemetery on the south side of Atlanta. Then, in 1977, Dr. King’s remains were moved to the famous marble tomb at the King Center that is part of the Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site. These events were accompanied by important rituals. Rituals are important components of cultural behavior, but they preserve poorly—and at best incompletely—in archaeological contexts. What are the implications of this for reconstructions of the past based on archaeological data?
The Flat Rock Cemetery in Lithonia displays the widespread rural African-American custom of burying the dead with simple fieldstones placed at the head and foot of the interment. Belief did not place significant importance on elaborate decoration of gravestones, as seen in formal cemeteries generally associated with white populations; but, instead placed emphasis on being buried in the cemetery as a community member and simple grave markers were used as a symbol of mutual aid reflected within the community.
The Flat Rock Archives Slave Cemetery Dedication and Libation Ceremony held October 30, 2010, paid tribute to the ancestors of their community through honor, celebration, and history. With a large turnout including news crews and Georgia Public Broadcasting, the community honored the Flat Rock historical church site, built in 1823, by blueprinting what was once the foundation and inviting people into the space. The crowd also visited the Slave Cemetery where a libation ceremony was held to honor the Flat Rock descendants’ ancestors. The celebration offered a realistic view into the past for the African-American community. SGA’s local chapter, the Greater Atlanta Archaeological Society, has been involved with preserving and caring for the cemetery through volunteer efforts since 2008.
When the SGA leadership visited the coast in February 2010, many of us also toured Sapelo Island with archaeologist Dr. Ray Crook, who has worked on the island for decades. We took the morning ferry out underovercast skies, watched the sun arrive with us at the island dock, and returned to the mainland late in the afternoon. We took a break to enjoy a Geechee lunch at mid-day.
Researchers at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah identified two historic-period cemeteries. One had been buried beneath a parking lot for over fifty years; it had thirty-seven graves. A second cemetery was identified from an 1889 map as a “Negro Cemetery,” and had well over three hundred burials. All human remains and artifacts were carefully excavated and respectfully moved to Belmont Cemetery, and the Installation’s Garrison Commander and Chaplain participated in a rededication ceremony in conjunction with African-American History Month in February 2009. Article includes photographs of selected grave goods.
The Historic Preservation Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources has a downloadable sixteen-page booklet dated November 2007, titled Preserving Georgia’s Historic Cemeteries that you may find interesting.
The Georgia Municipal Cemetery Association’s Annual Conference, Tangible Links to Our Past, will be held in Rome, Georgia September 17-18 2009, at the Rome Forum Conference Center, downtown.
Georgia State students got real-world experience in salvage archaeology and historic preservation projects under the direction of Dr. Jeffrey Glover when they worked recently in Atlanta’s historic Oakland Cemetery. The March 2008 tornado tipped over trees, bringing up soil and potentially disturbing human remains. Students used archaeological field techniques to examine this disturbed soil.
The Fish Vault has been famous in Memory Hill Cemetery, Milledgeville’s city cemetery, as the place where poor Mr. Fish, despondent over the loss of his wife, had shut himself into the vault and killed himself while sitting in a rocking chair. Visitors to the vault are routinely told to knock at the door and […]
Practical training in action, courtesy of Jonathan Appell. Georgia’s Historic Preservation Division, in partnership with the Decatur Preservation Alliance/Friends of Decatur Cemetery and the Georgia Municipal Cemetery Association, sponsored four hands-on cemetery conservation workshops in October and early November 2008. HPD was able to offer financial support from sales proceeds of the book, Grave Intentions: […]
Beginning in May 2008, members of the Greater Atlanta Archaeological Society have participated in a project complete with a sense of historic preservation and civic responsibility. Dedicating time and tools, members of GAAS have teamed up with the Flat Rock Archive in Lithonia, Georgia, to help in the restoration and documentation of the historic Flat […]
The staff at New South Associates (NSA) has been very busy this year. In addition to the following Georgia projects, our employees have been working on a variety of additional projects in Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, New York, and Puerto Rico. The Berry Creek Site (9MO487) was investigated by R. Jeannine Windham […]
Terracon archaeologists and historians continue to maintain busy field schedules across the southeast. The summer and autumn seasons have sent our staff to southwest, northern, and coastal Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, South Carolina, and the far reaches of northwest Virginia. Recently we have completed Phase I & II surveys for GDOT of a 32-mile corridor road […]