Archaeologists also study historic cemeteries…<br />
Thousands, and perhaps tens of thousands of family, church, and community cemeteries are scattered across the South. Every year many cemeteries are threatened, damaged, or destroyed by development.<br />
Some cemeteries are old enough and important enough to be protected by the same laws that protect other archaeological sites. However, most cemeteries fall under state burial laws, which offer at least some legal protection from damage or destruction regardless of age.<br />
Tennessee Title 46. Cemeteries<br /><ul><li>Defines “Cemetery” as: “….any land or structure in this state dedicated to and used, or intended to be used, for interment of human remains.”
Makes it a Class E felony to: “…willfully destroy, deface, or injure any monument, tomb, gravestone, or other structure placed in the cemetery, or any roadway, walk, fence or enclosure in or around the same, or injure any tree, plant or shrub therein, or hunt or shoot therein, play at any game or amusement therein, or loiter for lascivious or lewd purposes therein, or interfere, by word or actions, with any funeral procession or any religious exercise.”
Allows for termination of use of land as a cemetery and removal and relocation of graves upon petition to the court if the cemetery is: 1) abandoned; 2) in abandoned or neglected condition; or 3) “….conditions or activities about or near the burial ground which the court finds render the further use of same for the purposes aforementioned inconsistent with the due and proper reverence or respect for the memory of the dead or for any other reason unsuitable for such purposes.”</li></li></ul><li>Who can petition for termination of use of land as cemetery in Tennessee?<br /><ul><li>Interested Parties to include: land owners, surviving spouses of deceased, absent surviving spouses nearest blood relative of one or more of those buried in cemetery.
The municipality where the cemetery is located when the cemetery is inside the municipal limits or within a mile of the municipal limits and within the same county as the municipality.</li></li></ul><li>Requirements for removing and relocating a cemetery in Tennessee<br /><ul><li>The removal and relocation has to be approved by the Chancery Court.
Proof that a suitable reinterment site has been obtained, with proof that the reinterment site was either obtained through presentation of the fee simple title to the reburial site to the court or that “permanent right and easement” to the site has been obtained that insures access for future visitation.
“That the removal and reinterment of all the remains will be done with due care and decency, and that suitable memorial or memorials will be erected at the place of reinterment.”</li></li></ul><li>Problems With the Tennessee Cemetery Law<br /><ul><li>Tennessee law does not provide guidance on the identification of individual graves within a cemetery, which means that graves may be missed on relocation projects.
Tennessee law provides no guidance on the establishment of cemetery boundaries, which means that graves may be missed during relocation projects.
The law does not require that a genealogical study be conducted to identify next of kin of those buried in a cemetery so they can be part of the legal process.
The law does not require that a burial removal plan be filed with the court so that the court can determine if the graves are going to be moved “with due care and decency.”</li></li></ul><li>Archaeologists and abandoned cemeteries in Georgia<br />The current Georgia burial law was passed as a result of two attempted cemetery removals in the Atlanta area. The first was the Hopewell Baptist Church cemetery case, where a church in the Atlanta area was sued for incomplete removal of graves from a proposed construction site.<br />
Construction was stopped by an injunction, and investigations ensued. <br />
I was hired as an expert witness for plaintiff and was eventually appointed as the court’s expert. The case continued for nearly two years.<br />
The cemetery was eventually moved under court order by a burial removal firm. The burials were first exposed by a backhoe and the remains were shoveled into reburial boxes. The contents of the graves were recorded by archaeologists.<br />
Over 200 graves were removed from the construction site and over 100 more were preserved in place in the original construction site.<br />
The new building at Hopewell was a metal building used as a gymnasium. It was built after the graves were moved.<br />
The plaintiff prevailed in the Hopewell Baptist Church case and both actual and punitive damages were assessed against the church. The case drew attention to the cemetery removal issue, which fed into the next major attempt to move a cemetery in the Atlanta area.<br />
An attempt was made to move the Edwards-Attaway Cemetery in Kennesaw, Georgia, shortly after the Hopewell case was resolved.<br />Permits were acquired to move the graves, and an attempt was made to start the removal.<br />Protestors picketed the cemetery in an attempt to stop the move, and Cobb County filed for an injunction, that was granted, to prevent the graves from being moved.<br />
The cemetery was perched on a high pedestal left by preparation of the site around the cemetery for construction. It remained there while a case filed by Cobb County against the developer made its way through the courts. As a result of the case the old burial law was found to be unconstitutional and a new law was written and passed.<br />
Georgia Cemetery Law<br /> The Georgia Abandoned Cemetery and Burial Ground Act includes a permitting process that avoids the problems stated earlier in this presentation for the Tennessee law. A permit application to move a grave under that law in Georgia must include:<br />Evidence of ownership of the land.<br />An archaeologist’s report stating the number of graves present and where they are located.<br />A survey prepared by a registered land surveyor showing the boundaries of the cemetery that is based on the archaeologist’s report.<br />A genealogist’s plan for identifying and notifying descendents of those buried or believed to be buried in the cemetery.<br />A proposal for either avoidance of the cemetery and preservation in place or for the removal of the cemetery. The removal plan must state the method of disinterment, the location and method of reinterment, the approximate cost of the process, and the number of graves to be affected.<br />
The Georgia law references two methods that may be used by professional archaeologists to identify graves. It is important to note that the law requires that the entire permitting process be completed if a land use change is planned for a property that contains a cemetery. That means that a permit must be secured even if the cemetery is going to be preserved in place.<br />
The two identification methods allowed by Georgia law are remote sensing and manual probing, of which probing has proven to be the most effective.<br />
Manual probing works because when a hole is dug, the dirt never goes back into the hole the way it came out. The density of the fill in a hole is different than that of the surrounding undisturbed soil. The difference in the resistance provided by disturbed versus undisturbed soil can be detected by an individual who has been trained in the use of the probe.<br />Probing is done systematically. I use north-south oriented lines, called transects, placed a meter apart, with probing every 6 inches along each line. The lines are placed north-south, because historic graves are normally oriented east-west.<br />
Once a grave shaft is found, spikes are placed in all four corners of a grave and flagging tape is tied to the spikes to outline the graves. At that point the grave is ready to be mapped.<br />
The cemetery map has to be done by a registered land surveyor under the Georgia law. The law only requires that boundaries be shown, but in application the maps have been prepared to show actual graves, landscape features, and the cemetery terrain.<br />
The Edwards-Attaway Cemetery was the first cemetery to be granted a burial removal permit under the new Georgia law.<br />
The cemetery was moved using archaeological excavation methods and the spatial relationships were recreated in the reinterment cemetery.<br />
One of the most interesting finds in the cemetery was an individual who had lost part of an arm and a leg to amputation, who was buried next to a small feature that contained the amputated limbs. The Edwards-Attaway cemetery was located on the Kennesaw Mountain battlefield, and this individual is believed to have been a Union soldier who was injured in battle and was buried in the family cemetery after his death.<br />
Most Historic Cemetery projects have been done under court orders that limit the type of research that can be done with the excavated remains. A good bit has been learned about historic burial practices despite that limitation. As an example, a good bit has been learned about dating coffins and coffin adornments, which allows unmarked graves to be roughly dated.<br />
The shape of coffins in the American South changed through time, with the earlier forms being hexagonal and the later rectangular. The change took place after the Civil War, and hexagonal coffins were rare by the 1880s.<br />
The earliest coffin adornments routinely used on coffins were screws with slotted white metal heads that were used to secure the lid to the coffin. These are dated from ca. 1853 to ca. 1877.<br />(Bell 1990)<br />(Bell 1990)<br />
Bail style coffin handles, made of white metal and sometimes plated with silver, were used from ca. 1870 to ca. 1900. They were placed three to each side of the coffin for a total of six handles.<br />
Short Bar handles with white metal lugs, swing or fixed arms, and finials date from the 1890s to ca. 1920. They were placed three to a side on the coffin. The lugs, swing arms, and finials were sometimes silver plated.<br />
Extended bar handles made of stamped tin or iron and later aluminum became common by ca. 1920. Notice the short bar handles at the ends of the coffin.<br />
Today the most popular coffins have extended bar handle types with the body of the coffin made of metal instead of wood. These examples can be bought at Costco, and ones like these can be bought on eBay.<br />
Tennessee needs a burial law that parallels the Georgia law to protect cemeteries that are threatened by development. The cemetery/funeral industry tends to operate below the gaze of society. I am sure that most people involved in the funeral industry are honest and carry out their duties to the best of their ability. The way the law stands in Tennessee, however, there is no way to make sure that threatened graves are actually found, or that cemeteries believed to have been moved have actually been relocated.<br />