The remains were found in what was left from an excavation at the site in the 1950s and probably came from a grave that was inadvertently disturbed in that process, experts said.
The current dig has located what appear to be two graves. Archaeologists believe there may be more.
The grave shafts have not yet been explored, but descendants of the church’s earliest members said they want the archaeology to continue to try to learn who the deceased were, and honor them.
Colonial Williamsburg bought the old church and tore it down in 1955. A new church funded by the sale was built about eight blocks away in 1956. The original site was paved over in 1965.
The bell from the old church was used to dedicate the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington in 2016.
The remains were discovered this month, Jack Gary, Colonial Williamsburg’s director of archaeology, said Monday.
The spot is an area where oral tradition holds that past church members were probably buried behind the old structure on Nassau Street.
The announcement came during an online meeting with Gary; Michael Blakey, director of the Institute for Historical Biology at William & Mary; Connie Matthews Harshaw, president of the church’s Let Freedom Ring Foundation; and descendants of church members."
Photo credit: Archaeologist Merideth Poole searches for artifacts Sept. 8 during the first day of a dig at Colonial Williamsburg. Colonial Williamsburg is studying the original site of the First Baptist Church of Williamsburg, which was founded by enslaved African people in the late 1700s and still survives. (Timothy C. Wright for The Washington Post)