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Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Colonial Cemetery Excavated in Delaware

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

REHOBOTH BEACH, DELAWARE—According to a report in The News Journal, 11 graves have been exhumed from a seventeenth-century cemetery at Avery’s Rest, an 800-acre colonial farmstead in southern Delaware. Three of the graves belonged to unrelated African Americans who had probably been enslaved. One of them was a child of about five years of age whose burial had been damaged by a groundhog. The other eight graves held the remains of European Americans, including two women, six men, and an infant. At least four of them are thought to be related to each other, but John Avery, who moved to the site in 1674, is not thought to be among them. Historic documents note the Avery family members, who grew corn, wheat, and tobacco, owned two slaves. “This place kind of reframes our whole interpretation of African-American history in Delaware,” said Tim Slavin of the state Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs. Forensic anthropologist Doug Owsley and his team at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History are examining the remains for signs of age, diet, and health, and comparing them to other colonial burials in the Chesapeake region. The scientists are also conducting DNA tests. “When all is said and done, I feel we will have a number of these individuals identified by name,” Owsley said. For more on Colonial America, go to “Jamestown’s VIPs.”

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