Documenting Historic African American Cemeteries with New Heritage Sciences

Grants and Contracts Details


Documenting Historic African American Cemeteries with New Heritage Sciences Methods Abstract Historic cemeteries are endangered heritage sites, despite the common assumption that they are highly protected, maintained and easily identified. African American cemeteries in the United States are especially vulnerable to erasure due to historical discrimination, political and economic discrimination against Black communities, and the fact that many early burying grounds were small in scale and left minimal material footprint. Due to this historical erasure of these sites from maps and public consciousness, African American cemeteries are too frequently damaged or destroyed in the process of urban and suburban development projects. This project asks whether new heritage science methodologies can be used to detect and document historic cemeteries- including those with little surviving evidence on the ground surface- with non-invasive, aerial survey techniques. The project will utilize a combination of Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) and visible and multispectral imaging aerial surveys of historic and predominantly African American cemeteries in Kentucky to assess for patterns representative of cemeteries and burial grounds, which might be fed into a machine learning model for easy state-wide identification of cemeteries. Consultation with community members will contextualize the significance of these sites to contemporary descendants and neighbors and their concerns regarding the protection and preservation of such sites. This work applies an innovative cross-collaborative model using modern heritage science data tools to advance current anthropological practices. The work also demonstrates the ways archaeologists can pursue anti-racist and sustainable research practices that speak to the needs of historically oppressed and marginalized communities, that protects local heritage, minor monuments, and sacred spaces, and contributes to societal level dialogues on civil rights.
Effective start/end date9/15/225/31/24


  • Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research: $11,244.00


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