Southeast Archeological Center, National Park Service
April 16, 2020 , Platinum Ballroom
In AD 1716, construction began on a French fort located upon the bluffs of the Mississippi River, the future site of strategically important trade routes at Natchez, Mississippi. Christened Fort Rosalie, the site was continuously occupied as a trading post throughout the 18th-19th centuries, and has since become integrated into the Natchez National Historic Park. Despite its clear key impact on the cultural fabric of the developing city, little is known regarding the use of the fort’s surrounding grounds as a slave burial ground and a ‘potter’s field’ (for paupers, prisoners, and other stigmatized members of society) beyond that detailed in Audubon’s journals during his tour of the South in the early 1820s.
Excavations conducted in 2019 by the National Park Service uncovered seven burials in this oft-forgotten funerary landscape. Osteological and stable isotope analysis conducted on the remains of these individuals revealed that four were adults (two female and two male), two were adolescents (12-18 years), and one was a child (6-10 years). Strontium, carbon, and nitrogen analysis indicate that the individuals originated within the area directly surrounding Natchez, and subsisted on a diet primarily of grain, typical for the American south at this time.
This study not only reveals the life histories of these individuals, but also considers the experiences of marginalized groups in arguably the most fascinating frontier town of the antebellum South.