The Discovery of 300-year-old Slave Quarters

Written By: Clare Kelly 

Just 22 miles from St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM), a team of archeologists, collectively from the Maryland Department of Transportation and SMCM, discovered 300-year-old slave quarters. Located at Newtowne Neck State Park, the remains were originally found in the middle of October, but as the digging continued the archeologists realized they had found something extraordinary. As reported by CNN travel on Nov. 2, 2020, the state park “was once the site of a Jesuit plantation in southern Maryland.” From the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration, Julie Schablitsky, the chief archeologist on the site, said, “This is a very rare and exciting discovery because we don’t have any similar types of sites…there was so much potential for this be erased but, by some sort of miracle, we still have evidence of their homes an lives after so many years.” According to CNN Travel news, the “site has remained almost entirely preserved.” 

According to an interview with WBALTV11, this project began around five years ago when the team completed a “site surveying excavation;” the excavation team was brought on site this mid-October. Remnants of wooden fencing, or a palisade, along with a “midden” filled with “oyster shells, animal bones, used pipes and even old coins” were among the artifacts discovered. As reported by WBALTV 11, scientists working on the excavation site found DNA on the items; this proved what area in Africa the enslaved people came from. The archeologists have finished excavating the site, but they plan to return next year to continue their research. 

On Oct. 27, the Maryland Transportation State Highway Administration released a press statement on the discovery and continuing excavation of the slave quarters. The excavation site is located near the Newtown Manor, where Jesuit missionaries once resided. Dr. Julie Schalitsky spoke of the Jesuit presence in the area. She mentions how the Jesuit missionaries of this area kept very organized records. Despite their record-keeping, not much information survived regarding the African Americans enslaved on the Manor, who worked in both the fields and the Catholic Church. Schalitsky said, “If there was ever a place in Maryland that holds the story of diverse cultures converging to find religious freedom in an environment of conflict, sacrifice, and survival, it is here.” While the Maryland Department of Natural Resources led the excavation, archeologists from SMCM also took part in the research as reported by The Baltimore Sun. 

In an interview with CNN, Schablitsky said that the land they were excavating had not been touched for years, or, as she put it, “had not been plowed for a while.” She explains that if the land had been plowed,  the site would have been further under the ground; however, “the soil remained intact.” 

One artifact found, as reported by CNN, was a 1740 George II coin. The identification of this coin must have been recently discovered, as only CNN’s Nov. 2 report mentions the discovery.

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