Today@Sam Article

Museum To Celebrate Texas Archeology Month

Oct. 7, 2021
SHSU Media Contact: Wes Hamilton

Archeologists working on the Sugar Land 95 projectThe Sam Houston Memorial Museum will celebrate Texas Archeology Month in October for the 21st consecutive year. Each year, the museum invites a professional archeologist or a prominent historian to discuss his or her contribution to some of the most current and exciting archeological sites in Texas. This year, Reign Clark and Catrina Banks Whitley will present their lecture on the “Sugar Land 95” on Thursday, Oct. 14.

In February 2018, human remains were found at a construction site in Sugar Land, Texas, where Fort Bend I.S.D. was preparing to place the future James Reece Career and Technical Center. The remains of 95 individuals were part of the state-sanctioned convict leasing system, which existed in Texas between 1871 and 1911.

A cultural resources investigation was conducted beginning in October 2017. The project area was once part of the larger Central State Prison Farm owned by the State of Texas since 1908. Excavation of the Bullhead Bayou cemetery resulted in the discovery of the largest unknown convict cemetery in the State of Texas.

X-ray photo of from bones associated with the Sugar Land 95 projectExhaustive laboratory analysis and archival research went into the compilation of a 500-page report of findings revealing the cemetery was connected to Bullhead Convict Labor Camp, a camp that operated there from circa 1875 to 1908. Reign Clark returned there to oversee the reinterment process of the “Sugar Land 95” in November 2019, where they now rest in their original graves.

Finger bones associated with the Sugar Land 95 project“This is the first convict labor cemetery to be excavated and the experiences of individual convict laborers can be compared to historical documents about convict labor,” Whitley said. “With the historical documents identifying persons at the labor camps, there is the possibility of identifying these unknown individuals, giving them back their names and dignity as well as finding their descendants and/or relatives.”

This presentation will discuss the excavation of the remains, archeothanatology, and bioarcheological interpretations of the “Sugar Land 95.” Analysis revealed atypical mortuary practices, disease, malnutrition, and trauma endured, among other health insults, by the prisoners of the convict labor camp. DNA and isotope analysis as well as genealogical research continues today in the quest for locating descendants and to put names on markers at the Bullhead Convict Labor Camp Cemetery.

Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. for a reception and exhibits followed by the presentation at 7 p.m. The Katy and E. Don Walker, Sr. Education Center is located at 1402 19th Street in Huntsville. There is no charge for this presentation. For more information visit the museum website at: samhoustonmemorialmuseum.com or contact Mikey Sproat, Curator of Collections, at sproat@shsu.edu, 936-294-4895.

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