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Discovery in Maryland sheds light on the history of enslaved people

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A team of archaeologists have uncovered what they believe to be the oldest site that housed enslaved people in southern Maryland, USA. As well as the age being of note, researchers have said that the incredible condition of the well-preserved find makes it extremely valuable.

The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) and St. Mary’s College of Maryland archaeologists are working to unearth the 300-year-old site at a historic Jesuit plantation. Many of the archaeological remains lay buried in farm fields within Newtowne Neck State Park, located near an 18th-century brick manor once occupied by Jesuit missionaries. Early indications suggest the quarters may date to around 1700.

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Maryland archaeologist
The Manor House at Newtowne Neck State Park © Dr. Julie Schablitsky / MDOT SHA

“We found two extremely rare slave quarter sites. Although enslaved Africans arrived in the area by 1634, none of their homes have been found to date. We believe this may be the oldest slave quarter site found in Maryland. Both the descendants and archaeologists are very excited by this discovery. The study of these quarters will give us information on the daily lives of enslaved Africans during a time period we know very little about,” Dr. Julie Schablitsky, MDOT SHA’s chief archaeologist told Lonely Planet.

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Maryland archaeologist site
The team found coins, pots and pipes © Dr. Julie Schablitsky / MDOT SHA

According to Dr. Schablitsky, while Jesuits were prolific in their record-keeping, very little has survived on the enslaved people who worked the fields and served the Catholic Church, making this find rare and important. Archaeologists are using metal detectors to pinpoint the locations of early cabins where enslaved people left evidence of their daily lives in the form of broken clay tobacco pipes, ceramic cups and rusted nails. Early documents mention the sale of 272 enslaved people from Maryland in 1838, including those who lived at Newtown Manor. Their descendants are found in Maryland and across the United States today.

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Rev. Dante Eubanks is a resident of Leonardtown, and has traced his family to this plantation. “To be able to stand in the exact place where my ancestors lived and endured is a powerful experience. We need to remember these stories, they are important to our history and healing,” he said. The artefacts will be analyzed to learn more about the people who lived near the manor house.

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