AUSTIN, Texas - Remains were found in an East Austin cemetery back in 2016 when the city began to restore a chapel. Now several years later, those remains are being identified and the city is working on re-burying those individuals.
There were 36 individuals that were exhumed from the Oakwood Cemetery in 2017. The city is now working on making sure those individuals have a proper gravesite and memorial.
Starting this week, construction began as a team of archaeologists are working to find an area to re-bury those 36 individuals. "We're ready for that next step in the process, which is reinterment," said Kim McKnight, a program director with the City of Austin's Park and Recreation Department.
Back in 2016, restoration began on the chapel in the cemetery. It was then when they discovered the remains. "It was discovered in that process that the chapel had been constructed in 1914 over pre-existing graves," McKnight said.
Through engagement with the community, the city decided that the remains of those individuals who were found, after DNA testing, would be re-buried as close to the original site as possible. "At that point, a standard best practice in this situation is to learn as much about these individuals before they are reinterred," McKnight said.
For more advanced DNA testing, the city has partnered with the University of Connecticut to help further identify characteristics like sex, race, and ethnicity.
McKnight said it's not only important to have these individuals reinterred back into the ground but to learn more about them. "We really cherish the opportunity to learn as much about them and continue to tell their stories," she said.
As for the new gravesites, McKnight said they have identified a piece of land next to the chapel. "It's an area that does have quite a few unmarked graves, and so we are working with a team of archeologists to identify if it is viable," McKnight said.