The Georgia Department of Transportation and a team of archaeologists say they may be closer to understanding the history of a 19th century burial ground in South Bibb County.
GDOT first discovered the unmarked cemetery in April 2008, while finalizing plans to expand Sardis Church Road from east of Skipper Road to U.S. Highway 129. To complete the road project, officials with the Department of Transportation say the cemetery has to be moved.
Now, mortuary archaeologists say they've discovered the remains of 101 people at the site.
Skip Mason joined about 100 of his relatives Saturday at the burial ground.
He helped organize the reunion with GDOT to give potential descendents the chance to share their families' oral histories with researchers.
Mason's family is among hundreds that scientists think could be connected to a 19th century African American farming or slave community that once used the land to bury their dead.
Mason believes his great-great-great-grandmother's family may have been buried there.
Archaeologist Hugh Matternes, who says he's been working on the project for a year, says they haven't been able verify whether the remains of the more than 100 people found at the site are related to Mason and his relatives. He say they are getting closer to understanding the history of the people.
"We have a chance to resurrect them and put their presence back into the community heritage," Matternes said. "This is not a time period where we know a whole lot about the African American communities in Southern Bibb County."
Mason says he hopes through DNA testing, scientists will be able to match someone in his family to the people buried at this site.
"We strongly believe in a very spiritual sense that they are here and that the dots are being connected," Mason said.
GDOT says it plans to relocate the cemetery near its original site, but doesn't know where.
If you think you might be a descendent of someone buried there, or have knowledge of the cemetery, GDOT wants to hear from you.
People who had families living in the Avondale area from the 1870s to the early 1900s with the following surnames are encouraged to contact Julie Coco at New South Associates, 770-498-4155, ext. 103.
For more information on the project, visit the Avondale Burial Place website.