A Fragile Window into a Lost World
The recovery of thousands of artifacts is helping to uncover the reality of African and European-American life at Carroll’s Hundred during the Revolutionary period. We’re finding an astonishing story of the crucible of democracy in the Mid-Atlantic. Items such as a crystal curiously buried beneath a foundation that pre-dates the 1760s kitchen wing of the Carrolls’ mansion may reveal new information about African spiritual traditions that made their way to colonial America during slavery. And, there is much more yet to excavate.
A Link to African Traditions
The Carroll’s Hundred crystal was originally excavated beneath a corner of the foundation of the original kitchen (now razed) – possibly from an earlier, pre-1750s building. This rare artifact was part of what appears to be a cache that included bits of Chinese export porcelain and pieces of clear glass. This is consistent with other finds where crystals were buried together with objects that were often clear, blue, or made of bone or shell. In all instances, the objects appear to have been buried together deliberately – not merely discarded. The tradition of burying such objects has strong parallels with West African spiritual practice. For instance, the Fang people of Cameroon in Equatorial Guinea would bury sacred charms beneath a house as a protection from evil spirits. A tradition of the Congo was to collect ritual materials or minkisi to serve a variety of ritualistic purposes, including medicinal cures and as sacred divination objects.
Important African American History
Evidence of African American life is not just located in slave quarters on these early American estates, but in the foundations of every building where slaves lived and worked. At Carroll’s Hundred these included the remains of an office, kitchen, dairy, and rare ventilation tunnel. Investigating these cultural remains is a top Carroll’s Hundred priority.
The Artifact Conservation Project
In 2007, a generous grant from The 1772 Foundation enabled us to continue the conservation of this important collection. It funded a unique partnership with The Baltimore Talent Development High School to re-house and re-package the site’s artifact collection using archival materials. In 2012 and 2013, we partnered with Baltimore’s Summer YouthWorks Program, employing and training deserving young people in a variety of job-readiness skills – they successfully hand-labeled the entire collection and began to digitally catalog portions of it.
By becoming involved, as a Carroll’s Hundred member, as an independent voice in the cause to restore the artifact conservation project, or by participating in other activities, you can help to support this vitally-needed effort to preserve Maryland’s authentic past.