Wright-Whitesell-Gentry Cemetery Excavation and Relocation
Nancy Ross Stallings and Stephen Nawrocki
The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) recently authorized, funded, and coordinated the excavation and relocation, in its entirety, of the Wright-Whitesell-Gentry Cemetery (12Ma944). This rural mid-late nineteenth century extended family cemetery had been located in Castleton, Indiana, just north of the Indianapolis metropolitan area. This project represents collaboration among INDOT archaeologists, The Corradino Group, AMEC Earth & Environmental, and the University of Indianapolis Archeology and Forensics Laboratory, with contributions by the Indiana State Museum and the Purdue University Wood Research Laboratory.
This presentation will discuss the results of the field investigations, analysis of gravestones, funerary items and textiles, osteological and taphonomic analysis, and mitochondrial DNA analysis. The excavation and relocation of the Wright-Whitesell-Gentry Cemetery involved close cooperation with family descendants, coordination with public agencies and historic preservation groups, and public outreach. Family members were included in the planning process and collaborated in the research.
The excavation occurred within a few yards of the busiest highway intersection in Indiana, attracting heavy media attention. Archaeologists conducted excavation of the cemetery under constant public surveillance and media scrutiny, leading to several innovative approaches to public archaeology.