Maryland archeologists have uncovered what they believe to be 300-year-old slave quarters in St. Mary’s County.
Researchers with the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration and St. Mary’s College of Maryland made the announcement Tuesday.
Most of the artifacts were found near what was an 18th century brick manor once occupied by Jesuit missionaries inside Newtowne Neck State Park, according to MDOT SHA.
The quarters may date back to around 1700.
“The Jesuits were prolific in their record keeping, but very little survived on the enslaved African Americans who worked the fields and served the Catholic Church,” said Julie Schablitsky, MDOT SHA’s chief archaeologist in a news release.
“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.”
MDOT SHA said documents point to the sale of 272 slaves from Maryland in 1838 near the manor.
Descendants of those slaves still live in Maryland.
The Rev. Dante Eubanks, a resident of Leonardtown, has traced his family to the St. Mary’s plantation.
“To be able to stand in the exact place where my ancestors lived and endured is a powerful experience,” Eubanks said. “We need to remember these stories, they are important to our history and healing.”
Maryland archaeologists are using metal detectors to pinpoint the locations of early cabins along Md. Route 243, places where the enslaved left evidence of their lives in broken clay tobacco pipes, ceramic cups and rusty nails.
“MDOT SHA’s participation in this archaeological dig is a unique way to experience history firsthand,” SHA Administrator Tim Smith said in a release.
“I’m proud of the work this team of archaeologists is doing to preserve the history of early Marylanders.”
MDOT SHA said the artifacts need to be analyzed to learn more.