Archaeologists Identify Human Remains At Historic Black Williamsburg Church
Archaeologists discovered human remains during the second phase of an excavation at the historic First Baptist Church in Williamsburg.
First Baptist is one of the oldest Black churches in the country.
Colonial Williamsburg archaeologists are working with members to excavate at the church’s first location.
They previously found grave shafts in November.
One of those shafts was in the exact spot that a descendant of an older church member said it would be.
On Jan. 4, researchers expanded the excavation to the area surrounding the shafts.
That’s where they found new evidence of human burial.
Scientists from the Institute for Historical Biology at William & Mary identified a human tooth and what is likely part of a human finger.
They also found bones that were too small to be positively identified as human.
“We need to really continue the excavation so that we can get to a point where we can really see all the grave shafts, which ones have been disturbed and exactly how many there are,” said Jack Gary, the head of archaelogy at Colonial Williamsburg.
He's leading the dig at the First Baptist site.
At the same time, the IHB is taking a conservative approach with whatever bone fragments they find.
“Our job is to make sure that whatever we identify as human bone absolutely is human bone,” said Michael Blakey, director of the IHB.
Connie Harshaw leads the Let Freedom Ring Foundation, part of the church that raises money for efforts like reconstruction of the historic building.
“At the end of the day, we want to find out who they are and if possible connect any surviving descendants to those burials,” she said.
The full excavation process is expected to last 18 months.