The University of Georgia is continuing to conduct research on the 105 gravesites found under Baldwin Hall in November 2015. According to a UGA Today press release, information about these bodies, said to have been remnants from the mid-1800’s, will be officially documented and accessible by Athens residents within the coming year.
Gathering information on these bodies has been in progress since the bodies were first uncovered. Following the initial discovery, the university consulted with the State Archaeologist’s Office for guidance on how to proceed. A team of scholars was assembled to begin studying the “ancestry, age, sex and other characteristics about the individuals.”
According to a the press release, researchers found “that the vast majority of these individuals were of maternal African descent.”
Specialists in ancient DNA from the University of Texas at Austin will conduct further analysis of the paternal ancestry of the remains, to supplement details about maternal ancestry discovered in the experiment’s first phase.
In the press release, UGA Vice President for Research David Lee spoke on behalf of the university when he said they are committed “to building upon the preliminary research and learning more about the lives of the men, women and children, who were likely slaves or former slaves, given the time period,” who were found during Baldwin renovations.
Following the accumulation of this information, the supplemental DNA information will be open to the public in some manner so residents may potentially identify DNA linkages with the deceased. According to the press release, The Office of Research is determining the most economically feasible option to offer this information to local residents.
Alongside this information, Director of UGA’s Center for Geospatial Research Professor Marguerite Madden will be leading a team to put together a “dynamic time-series visualization” of the Athens area surrounding Baldwin Hall.
Madden said she anticipates that this project will help university and community members understand the working and living places of these individuals. Madden said her team will also be documenting the “evolution of the Old Athens Cemetery, because records show it was once six acres in size and now it is two acres.”
Madden said she hopes to create accurate 2D, 3D and 4D representations of the Athens landscape from 1800 to present, as pertains to the area surrounding Baldwin Hall, downtown Athens and surrounding residential areas.
Meetings will be held throughout the summer for Madden’s team to connect with community members and researchers to share information and progress on the project. This community effort to understand Athens’ history will also especially benefit two local high school students who, upon completion of the database, will “receive STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) training in the Geographic techniques of GIS, remote sensing and geo-visualization,” Madden said.
Once the final database is completed, Madden said she hopes to share that information with various other researchers and expand upon the project by adding multimedia effects and community narratives.
Southeastern Archaeological Services Inc. will also contribute to Madden’s project by conducting archival research and mapping services. The final report on Baldwin Hall will be submitted to Office of University Architects to the State Archaeologist's Office.