Few clues left behind in Gaillard graves

By Valencia

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - The cemetery where 27 people were buried near the Gaillard Auditorium left few clues as to the people laid to rest.

" Unfortunately, we're about 100 years too late to use radio carbon dating," said Eric Poplin, senior archaeologist for Brockington Cultural Resources Consulting.

The gravesite is about 75 feet long and 40 feet wide.

"We know that the first house was built at the foot of George and Anson streets at about, sometime after 1761, soon thereafter," said Poplin. "We're assuming people weren't being buried across several different yards. So, then it had to have been done before the residents came here."

With the help of mapping technology, each grave is now flagged and numbered. Poplin says the grid alone reveals the dead were people of faith.

"The head of the person is to the West and they are probably lying on their back, their feet to the East. The graves are aligned almost directly east-west. That's the way most graves are made in Christian cemeteries," said Poplin.

Poplin also says he can tell people were aware that the land was a cemetery.

"The arrangement of the graves, they're in two rows," said Poplin. "That suggests that it was used possibly over some time that people came and went. They recognized where graves were but, not exactly."

Poplin says if the bones are in good condition, he will be able to research more information on the individuals.

"There are certain measurements that we will take of the bones before we lift them out. And, that will help us determine the sex, the age and the individuals -- and a little bit possibly race," said Poplin. "There may be evidence of diseases also that the bones can have on them. And, if we see those, we would document them."

Poplin says there's even question of how the bones were laid to rest.

"Sometimes we can see evidence of coffins. The wood will rot and you can see it in the grave. You can see where the coffins were, the nails. We really haven't dug far enough into any one grave to say if they were coffins or not. But, either practice, wooden boxes or cloth were used during that time."

City officials met Friday to come up with an excavation plan. Mayor Riley hopes that plan will be put into place within the next week.