The University of Georgia says its scientists will analyze the DNA of human remains found in 2015 near a campus building.
Two years ago, workers renovating Baldwin Hall discovered more than 100 gravesites. Preliminary DNA tests showed most of the bodies were those of African descent.
UGA researchers now say they plan to go deeper.
They will partner with the University of Texas at Austin to analyze the DNA. UGA's vice president of research, David Lee, says UT Austin specializes in the analysis of ancient DNA and can determine the sex of the bodies and whether the people were related to each other.
"It'll also be a very cool reference for local historians, folks who are interested in the history of the Athens area and the university campus," Lee says.
Lee says UGA's Center for Geospatial Research will lead a team to create visualizations of the cultural and natural landscape surrounding Baldwin Hall from the 1800s to the present, with historic maps, aerial photographs and drone videos.
"That, and future work, will provide a framework for tagging oral histories that seem relevant to the cultural geographic environment in which these folks lived and worked," Lee says.
Alvin Sheats, president of the Athens NAACP chapter, says UGA should do more than just research, giving full scholarships to the descendants.
"DNA research is good, but studying research for studying research is not going to do the community any good, nor is it going to bring about any healing," Sheats says.
Lee says there have been talks with community leaders to address this request, but the university wants to finish the DNA analysis first before planning further.