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Ground-Penetrating Radar Mapping of Historic African American Cemeteries in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park



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Ground-Penetrating Radar mapping of historic African American Cemeteries in the Great Smoky
Mountains National Park
Blair R. Tormey, Western Carolina University; Paul S. Martin, Martin Archaeology Consulting
Ground penetrating radar (GPR) is a valuable non-invasive resource in archaeological investigations,
particularly in mapping historical cemeteries. Throughout the American South, African American
cemeteries, both during and after slavery, possess little to no written records, and need to be validated
and preserved.
A new mapping effort by Western Carolina University, in cooperation with Martin Archaeology
Consulting, the African American Experience Project, and Friends of the Smokies, aims to complete the
first detailed surveys of African American cemeteries in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
(GRSM). In addition to GPR surveys, searches by human remains detection (HRD) canines will aid the
mapping of these historic sites.
Enloe Cemetery is located on a hillside north of Mingus Mill in the GRSM and contains five marked
burials. The burials are oriented roughly east-west, mounded and troughed on both sides, and marked
with headstones and footstones fashioned from native rock slabs. The graves, dating to at least 1860,
are reported to be those of African Americans enslaved by the Enloe and Mingus families, who owned
the nearby land.
A GPR survey of Enloe Cemetery was completed in July 2020. A total of eight graves were mapped five
previously known and marked graves, and three potential unmarked graves. There is some evidence
that coffins may still be present in at least four graves. The locations of these graves were marked with
survey flags in the field, photographed, and mapped with the goal of providing the GRSM with the
means to further document and preserve the graves. Additional GPR surveys and HRD canine searches
are planned for the Ravensford and O.E. Kerr cemeteries during 2022.
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