Science Uncovers Story of Slaves on Zoo Property

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An archaeological crew excavated 19th-century graves at the Nashville Zoo earlier this year. DNA and skeletal evidence from the remains showed the graves were almost certainly part of an African-American slave cemetery at the old Grassmere farm (Photo: TRC Nashville )

Summary from Who was Buried at Grassmere Plantation?  and Science uncovers story of slaves on zoo property

Archaeologists working with the Nashville Zoo excavated an area of construction within the Zoo, exhuming human remains from a small 19th Century cemetery believed to be part of the Grassmere Plantation on which the Zoo is built.  The remains of nine individuals were sent to the Middle Tennessee State University lab for analysis along with DNA testing. Results indicated that all died in adulthood but before the age of 50. All were relatively well nourished but may have had very demanding workloads and several had signs of falls. The youngest was usually tall and robust but suffered hip damage, a slipped capital femoral epiphysis, most common in male Africian- American youth today.  While DNA analysis was overall inconclusive, the direct analysis indicated Africian-American ancestry. Thus indicating the once-forgotten cemetery near the zoo’s ticket booths “almost certainly represents a community of enslaved African-Americans in the last decades of American slavery,”  archaeologist Hodge wrote. “From a forgotten graveyard, archaeology can help give voices to those who were voiceless in life, and give witness to their hardship and sacrifice.”

Summary from Who was Buried at Grassmere Plantation?  and Science uncovers story of slaves on zoo property

2 COMMENTS

  1. grandfather Carter escaped from Nashville Tennessee in the 1800’s and left a lot of loved ones behind I would love to contact some one who would know who was buried there

    • There were no headstones recovered, and it was a forgotten burial ground so it is probably very difficult to determine the names of the individuals buried there. If you are interested in contacting the archaeologists, they are Larry McKee and Hannah Guidry from the
      TRC Environmental Corporation, Nashville they may know about any records that exist relating to the slaves on the Plantation. The bioarchaeologist who did the bone analysis and the DNA study was Dr. Shannon Chappell Hodge, Ph.D., Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Middle Tennessee State University. Both may be worth contacting in your search. Best of Luck. Let us know if you are able to make a connection!

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