Human Biology Open Access Pre-Prints

Document Type

Article

Anticipated Volume

87

Anticipated Issue

2

Abstract

Determining the origins of those buried within undocumented cemeteries is of incredible importance to historical archaeologists and in many cases, the nearby communities. In the case of Avondale Burial Place, a cemetery in Bibb County, Georgia, in use from 1820 to 1950, all written documentation of those interred within it has been lost. Osteological and archaeological evidence alone could not describe, with confidence, the ancestral origins of the 101 individuals buried there. In the present study, we utilize ancient DNA extraction methods to investigate the origins of Avondale Burial Place through the use of well-preserved skeletal fragments from 20 individuals buried in the cemetery. Through examination of hypervariable region I in the mitochondrial genome (HVR1, mtDNA), we determine haplotypes for all 20 of these individuals. A total of 18 of the 20 individuals belong to the L or U haplogroups, suggesting that Avondale Burial Place was most likely used primarily as a resting place for African Americans. After the surrounding Bibb County community expressed interest in investigating potential ancestral relationships to those within the cemetery, a total of eight potential descendants provided saliva in order to obtain mtDNA HVR1 information. This phase of the study revealed that two different individuals from Avondale Burial Place matched two individuals with oral history ties to the cemetery. Using the online tool EMPOP, we calculated the likelihood of these exact matches occurring by chance alone (