City passes resolution to study and reinter Gaillard graves

By Lauren Ratcliffe
Published March 27, 2013

Archaeologists and anthropologists will continue to study the 37 remains found during the renovation of the Gaillard Auditorium in Charleston.

Charleston City Council unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday night in support of furthering the study and eventually reinterring the remains.

Construction crews began working at the Gaillard site in August. Plans call for the auditorium to be renovated into a larger complex called the Gaillard Center.

A preliminary report by Eric Poplin, senior archaeologist with Brockington and Associates, indicated that the people found buried beneath the Gaillard site were likely from the lower rungs of society.

Poplin studied land records and other historical documents to determine that the 37 people were likely associated with colonial owners of the property as slaves or indentured servants. They could also have been residents of Charles Towne who did not have access to a church cemetery. The report said all landowners of record for the property are buried in cemeteries elsewhere in Charleston.

According to the report, Isaac Mazyck received a grant to the land in 1696 and established a farm on the property. In 1720, the land was sold to Thomas Gadsen who then sold a portion to George Lord Anson in 1726.

In 1761, Anson sold the parcel to William Ellis who built a large house on the property. The report said it is unlikely the house would have been built so close to the graves if they were known. The report concludes that the graves were likely established between 1690 and the 1750s.

An array of artifacts was found in the graves including buttons, coins, ceramics, gun flint and iron objects. The artifacts will be cleaned and analyzed to help date the burials and reveal who the deceased might have been.

Only one of the bodies was buried in a coffin, according to the report. It is assumed the remaining people were buried in cloth shrouds.

Further study of the remains is needed to determine racial affinity. Once the studies are concluded, City Council will decide where the remains will be reinterred.

Previous coverage

Construction starts on new Gaillard Center

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