200 year old slave barracks found in Maryland

Published On August 6, 2014 | By Admin | All the way black, The latest posts

April V. Taylor

The Root is reporting that archaeologists who were looking for signs of French Commander Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau’s 1781 encampment in Millersville, Maryland have instead stumbled upon historic slave barracks that are more than 200 years old.  The historical archaeological find lies just feet from the plantation home that once belongs to Francis Scott Key’s grandmother.  The property is currently owned by the Rockbridge Academy.

Regarding the find, State Highway Administration chief archaeologist Julie Schablitsky states, “To be able to have those surfaces survive in an archaeological context is astounding.  You can see that the bricks here are turned on their end, and there are some wear marks in here.  This is the exact surface where they worked and walked 150-250 years ago.”  She goes on to report, “We have an intact foundation, the brick floors walked on by slaves…and pits full of everyday things.  This site is an important contribution to African American history.”  The barracks are an extremely rare find, even rarer are their size.  At 34-foot by 34-foot, they indicate that the property owner was fairly wealthy.  It is estimated that 35 slaves lived in barracks on the plantation.

The dig was part of a federally funded grant under the Transportation Enhancement Program that allowed for exploration along General’s Highway to uncover information about the history of transportation in the area.  In a news release, director of the Department of Planning and Preliminary Engineering states, “Understanding the history around our highway network is an important element in our work; these activities and discoveries, as part of our cultural resources stewardship program, help us piece together our valuable history.”

American University field tech Justin Uehlein describes being able to work at the site as, “…amazing.  It’s very much like a dream.”  In addition to the slave barracks, archaeologists have also uncovered such everyday items as ceramics, beads, nails and pieces of a medicine bottle.  Field tech Adam Fracchia reports, “All these things sort of tell us what they ate, how they supplemented their diet, what they did in their spare time and how this building was used.”  Workers have also found evidence of Civil War activity in the area.  It has not yet been determined what will happen with the artifacts that are recovered or if the site will be opened for public viewing at some point.

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