Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia is enlisting the assistance of its anthropology department to curate and study the remains that have been recovered from the Baldwin Hall expansion construction site over the last few months.
Work to locate and exhume remains from gravesites at the site has been underway since the first remains were inadvertently discovered on Nov. 17, 2015. Baldwin Hall is adjacent to the Old Athens Cemetery, which UGA has been working to preserve and stabilize since 2007. University planners did not anticipate discovering remains on the site, as oral histories and information provided by local historians indicated that all remains had been removed and reinterred when Baldwin Hall was originally constructed in 1938 and when the Baldwin Hall extension was built in the mid-1940s.
Construction at the site has been temporarily suspended until removal of the remains is completed. This meticulous process, which was slowed by persistent, heavy rain in December, will continue over the course of the next few weeks. Work at the construction site will resume under the administration of the Office of University Architects for Facilities Planning once the exhumation is complete.
The Baldwin Hall annex will provide the School of Public and International Affairs with technology-enabled active learning classrooms; space for graduate teaching assistants to hold office hours with undergraduate students; and common areas for faculty, staff, students and alumni to convene for academic discussions, presentations and events. In addition, Baldwin Hall will be renovated to provide academic departments with modern instructional facilities, greater accessibility for individuals with disabilities and a more efficient mechanical system.
As of Jan. 8, remains from 52 gravesites have been exhumed, with another 12 probable sites identified. It is anticipated that the full number within the construction zone will be known by the end of next week. The remains are initially being taken to Southern Archaeological Services, UGA’s contractor for the exhumation work.
The anthropology department’s academic project will consist of two phases.
In the first phase of the project that will be conducted this spring semester, faculty, graduate and undergraduate students will conduct basic osteological research that will include DNA analysis to help identify age, sex and ancestral affiliation of these individuals. This work will not result in a determination of the specific identity of individual remains. In addition to the DNA analysis, the remains will be examined non-destructively using digital radiographic imaging.
During the second phase of the project in the summer and fall semesters, the research will shift to the living conditions of the individuals: for example, health, activity patterns and diet. Undergraduate students will participate in the project through the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities, as will students in a human osteology course and medical anthropology class.
It is estimated that it will be late this year or early 2017 before the research will be completed and the remains reinterred. The University of Georgia is committed to reinterring the remains in a respectful and dignified manner and will continue to consult with the State Archaeologist’s Office for guidance and input.