02/04/2013 03:50 pm ET Updated Feb 05, 2013

Georgia Southern University Investigating Link Between Savannah Vaults, Slavery (VIDEO)

A group of scientists hopes to find out whether five large underground vaults were used to house slaves. So far, they've found little more than pig and rat bones.

In a partnership between Georgia Southern University and the city of Savannah, Ga., archaeologists are trying to figure out the vaults' original purpose.

Luciana Spracher, director of the city's research library and municipal archives, told the Associated Press many believe the vaults beneath Bay Street were used to house slaves before they were auctioned. It's just never been proven.

The 1840's-era vaults were designed by architect Charles B. Cluskey as part of a city project to prevent erosion in the area and to raise the public walkway above it, making it even with Bay Street, according to the Savannah Morning News.

“Over the years the question of what these vaults were used for has been very interesting,” Blake Ayala, a GSU graduate student, told the Morning News. “We know they were used for storage, and we know for as many as 100 years — up until this last November — we’ve been using them for parking.

So far, WJCL reports, the group has found coins, nails, a medicine bottle, rat and pig bones and Lawrence & Michaels Balm.

They started the excavation in November of 2012 and hope to eventually start a restoration of the vaults.



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