We are currently working with the City of Charleston, the College of Charleston, colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania and other partners to provide a series of 'Community Conversations', conduct ancient DNA research and a study of genetic diversity in Charleston today, and facilitate an education and arts program, in preparation of the reinterment (reburial) of the thirty-six individuals uncovered in 2013 during construction at the Gaillard Center.
We are excited about this significant opportunity to reconcile this past and honor the people that were buried on this sacred ground. The remains of the thirty-six, probably African-descended, individuals are the earliest burials found in Charleston so far, dating to 1760-1800. We have been awarded a grant from the National Geographic Society to conduct ancient DNA analyses that will add to archaeological research already completed to help us learn more about the individuals that were buried at this site.
In May 2018, our colleagues from the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Theodore Schurr and Ms. Raquel Fleskes, collected bone samples from the 36 individuals that were found near Anson Street. This fall Ms. Fleskes will extract DNA from these bone samples. Ancient DNA analysis offers an opportunity to explore geographic origins and possible biological kinship relations among the deceased.
During their visit Dr. Schurr and Ms. Fleskes also collected 30 DNA samples from living individuals of African descent. In July and August 2018, College of Charleston student, Adeyemi Oduwole, analyzed this material at the University of Pennsylvania, with the support of the National Geographic Society. The results of the analysis of modern DNA variation will provide an initial view of genetic diversity in Charleston that can be compared with that obtained from the Anson Street burials and will allow community members to learn about their genetic ancestry. Dr. Ofunniyin and Joanna Gilmore collected more DNA samples from living individuals in September 2018.
Community Conversations continue to be held at various community venues in and around Charleston, these are free and open to all. We want to hear what you think are appropriate ways to remember and honor our ancestors buried near Anson Street. Through the community engagement, school and art programs we hope to explore what you would like to see for the memorial. How does our understanding of the identity of the people buried at this site and those of African descent living in Charleston today affect the reinterment ceremony and the design of a memorial for the reburial site?