March 22, 2007 — A public forum to discuss a project to exhume ancient burial grounds of enslaved Africans will be held 7 p.m. Friday at the St. George Village Botanical Gardens visitor center.
Residents are invited to attend and discuss this archeological project, entitled "Voices From Beyond the Grave," which seeks to provide a link to St. Croix's historic past.
The project is being carried out under the direction of Pia Bennike of the University of Copenhagen, who will perform archeological burial excavations at two selected sites on St. Croix as part of a forensic anthropological sampling strategy associated with the Galathea III Danish Research Expedition, according to a press release from the Department of Planning and Natural Resources.
The research is also being conducted under the auspices of a Memorandum of Agreement between Bennike and the V.I. State Historic Preservation Office, a division of DPNR.
According to the release, the project's objective is to obtain empirical evidence regarding the life experience of enslaved Africans that cannot be otherwise gathered through historical research. The project will archaeologically recover and scientifically analyze skeletal remains to uncover new information about age at death, ethnic origin, stress indicators (such as heavy work), childbirth, diet, the effect of diseases, and even the geographic location of the subject's birthplace in Africa.
This knowledge would tell the Africans' side of a story that has mainly been recorded from a European viewpoint, and allow descendants to access and connect to their past, according to Bennike.
One of the sites being considered to be a part of the study is the St. George Village Botanical Garden, located on a former plantation on the west end of the island. The garden has a reported 40 grave sites on the property, dating from the slavery era to present times.
At a similar meeting last Sunday, garden board members stated that no decision has been made on whether they would allow scientists to proceed with excavations or examinations of grave sites. Board members later released a list of names of families interred at the property's cemetery.
Those names include: Abraham, Adams, Allen, Andrew, Balfour, Ballantine, Barry, Battiste, Benjamin, Bishop, Book, Borke, Brannigan, Bryan, Burke, Cade, Charles, Civil, Constance, Coulsen, Crawford, Cyrus, Devant, Drake, Durant, Dyer, Edwards Emmanuel, Fargus, Ferdinand, Flynn, Ford, Francis, Frederiks, Gasper, Giddings, Glascow, Groper, Grimes, Gumbs, Harrison, Hatchett, Hendrickson, Henry, Hughes, Hunt, James, Jasper, John, Joseph, Kenny, King, Latimer, Lewis, Louis, Mack, Manuel, Martin, McBean, Mendale, Mendes, Michael, Montague, Moore, Moses, Napoleon, Naughten, Nicholas, Patrick, Petersen, Phillip, Porter, Powlis, Polydore, Prince, Reilly, Richards, Richardson, Robinson, Rodgers, Ruby, Ryan, Sackey, Samuel, Stephen, Thomas, Timothy, Williams and Wisbitall.
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