SOURCING BLACK LIMESTONE GRAVESTONES IN LATE 17th CENTURY COLONIAL VIRGINIA
Historical, archaeological, lithological, and paleontological evidence support the hypothesis of a European source. Preserved wills from some colonists requesting black “marble” gravestones from London provide historical evidence. The importation of other manufactured goods in late 17th century Virginia from Europe is evident in the archaeological record. Biostratigraphic analysis of 12 identified genera of algae, foraminiferans, corals, and bryozoans indicate an age of Middle Mississippian (Viséan Stage, Asbian substage, ~330 Ma). Paleobiogeographic analysis of these 12 genera indicate they only co-occur in Belgium and England, and these are the likely sources of the black limestone gravestones.
Possible closer sources of similar lithology and age from west of the Blue Ridge of the Appalachian Mountains include the Greenbrier and Cove Creek Limestones, 460 km away in southwestern Virginia. These can be rejected as sources as there is historical evidence of hostile Native American tribes occupying the area at the time. This would have made transport of these large (mean cut and polished dimensions:188×102×13 cm; ~700 kg) limestone blocks over the Blue Ridge logistically difficult. Lastly, the assemblage of fossil genera preserved in the gravestones does not occur in North America.