An Examination of Possible Mass Burials in Pensacola, Florida's Historic St. Michael's Cemetery

Nicole Marie Rosenberg Marshall

           St. Michael's Cemetery is the oldest extant cemetery in Pensacola, Florida. St. Michael's Cemetery is also one of the two oldest cemeteries in Florida (the other being located in St. Augustine). Since 2000, the University of West Florida (UWF) has been engaged in ongoing research at the cemetery. Historical records indicate that a significant unmarked burial population may be present within the cemetery. In 2007 and 2008, a systematic Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey identified 3,915 sub-surface anomalies that may represent unmarked burials. Some of these anomalies are significantly larger than would be expected for single interments and potentially represent mass burials from colonial and post-colonial period epidemic events. To test this hypothesis, excavations were conducted at three of the five large anomalies during 2009, 2010, and 2011. The goals of these investigations were to determine whether the sub-surface anomalies represent mass interments and to determine the chronology and ethnicity of any individual burials encountered using grave attributes and associated artifacts. While none of the anomalies excavated were mass graves, several individual unmarked burials were exposed and documented. This thesis summarizes the methods, results, and conclusions of the research conducted in St. Michael's Cemetery while contextualizing them within previous research.

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