Archaeological Investigation and Relocation of a Slave Cemetery at the Nashville Zoo, Davidson County, Tennessee

Author(s): Hannah Guidry

Year: 2015


Excavations on Nashville Zoo property, once part of the Grassmere Plantation established ca. 1810, identified and removed 20 individuals from an unmarked cemetery. Evidence from coffin and clothing remains indicates the cemetery dates from the early to mid-nineteenth century. The absence of elaborate coffin hardware common of the time, the cemetery location, and the known slave-holding history of the farm indicate this was a slave cemetery. Most of the wooden coffins were hexagonal with few examples of hardware beyond nails. A trend in button material from only handmade shell and bone to the addition of post-1840 porcelain buttons in the north portion of the cemetery suggests expansion in this direction through time. Additionally, blue and white glass beads were interred with two infant burials. The orderly nature of the cemetery arrangement demonstrates a lasting, organized method to the burial practices. Following excavation, the individuals were moved to the historic farm portion of the Zoo, and reburied in the same arrangement. Information gleaned from these excavations will be incorporated into the existing historic interpretive program at the Zoo. The remains and artifacts from this cemetery provide insight into the life, death, and burial customs of an enslaved population in Middle Tennessee.

SAA 2015 abstracts made available in tDAR courtesy of the Society for American Archaeology and Center for Digital Antiquity Collaborative Program to improve digital data in archaeology. If you are the author of this presentation you may upload your paper, poster, presentation, or associated data (up to 3 files/30MB) for free. Please visit for instructions and more information.

Cite this Record

Archaeological Investigation and Relocation of a Slave Cemetery at the Nashville Zoo, Davidson County, Tennessee. Hannah Guidry. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397832)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections


Cemetery Historic

Geographic Keywords
North America - Southeast

Spatial Coverage

min long: -91.274; min lat: 24.847 ; max long: -72.642; max lat: 36.386 ;