Archaeologists have begun digging up the 200-year-old graves of a slave family in hopes of separating fact from fiction in the legend of "the black Paul Bunyan." The dig has the blessing of more than a dozen descendants of Venture Smith who believe science can finally lend credence to the tales they have heard all their lives about the fabulous feats of strength that helped the lumberjack slave win his freedom.
Standing 6-foot-1 by his own account and weighing more than 300 pounds according to local lore, Smith is said to have carried a nine-pound ax and split seven cords of wood each day. His biography describes him carrying a barrel of molasses on his shoulders for two miles and hauling hundreds of pounds of salt.
Smith's story became one of the nation's first slave narratives in 1798 and is regarded by scholars as one of the most important such works. But slave biographies particularly those told to writers, as Smith's story was were sometimes embellished.
Scientists say a look at Smith's remains could indicate his height and weight, his diet and any injuries he suffered during a life of labor. And DNA taken from him, his wife, his son and his granddaughter could help pinpoint where in Africa he was born and corroborate the account of his early life there.
You can read more about this story on ABC News' web at http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory?id=2248468&page=1