NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Developer AJ Capital identified human skeletal remains and fragments of wood while digging the foundation of its planned 10-story residential building in Chestnut Hill.
The construction area sits near Fort Negley and City Cemetery. An archaeologist hired by AJ Capital dated the remains of the two people to the early 19th century, but there are still many questions.
Learotha Williams, a Professor of History at Tennessee State University, said there’s still a lot of history to be uncovered in this part of Nashville. “We have our fair share of high rises in this city we have our fair share of tall and skinnies in this city. We don’t have that many 19th-century cemeteries. And with this one, it’s frustrating because we’re not really sure what might be there. This might be a Native American burial ground, and we’re mindful that the Cherokee and other groups were here long before Robertson and Donaldson showed up right.”
Williams said more remains may be found in that area in the future, considering how much has happened in that part of the city. “Whatever is there, I really think that it’ll give us another lens in which to view the history of this city and its people. It helps us flesh out, get a better understanding of identity and the way we evolved from the 19th century to the 21st century.”
Williams expects more historic remains will be found as Nashville continues to grow. However, how these historical finds are dealt with is a concern for him and many others.
“This is just another one of those instances, I think, where history is intersecting or interfering with profits. Because I’m certain, and this developer won’t be the only developer right, but it’s going to come a moment when they are confronted with history and then their timeline of when this project is supposed to be done.”
There may be solutions to this problem. Williams said, “I think there needs to be a third step one that entails whoever it is working on the project to reach out to the historical community, whether it’s Metro Historical Commission, or Vanderbilt or TSU or Fisk, to find out precisely what’s going on.”
He continued, “I don’t think you should be able to accurately discover something that might have immense historical value, you know, to make a couple of phone calls and keep it moving. Because with archaeology, once this stuff is destroyed, you can’t recover it. It’s gone forever.”
AJ Captial is currently working on getting permission to move the remains to the nearby City Cemetery.