By Kerry-Ann Hamilton
July 7, 2011
|Photos by Kerry-Ann Hamilton
FREDRERICK, Md. – On a sweltering June
day near Frederick, Md., Shayla Monroe was in the farthest corner of
the L'Hermitage slave village. Trowel in hand, she excavated her 10'
by 10' quadrant.
The senior anthropology major rigorously
screened then gently searched for artifacts. During the interview, she
found a piece of ceramic, which she cleaned and dropped in her labeled
brown paper bag along with other artifacts such as nails, bottles and
utensils. The team also uncovered advertisements for slaves who fled
Ten Howard students and two faculty members
participated in the National Park Service's (NPS) two-week archeological
field school at the Monocacy National Battlefield, from June 21 through
30, aimed at providing exclusive and enhanced learning opportunities
for students interested in archeology.
The archeological excavation is at one
of the largest known slave sites in the region, located approximately
40 miles from Washington, D.C. Today, it is known as Best Farm.
Monroe and her classmate Alex Brueggeman
excavated at Monocacy for the second year; they will intern with the Park
Service for the entire summer. Clad in olive NPS uniforms, the seniors are leaders on the site. Coupled with the strong theoretical
foundation they have gained in their Douglass Hall classrooms and labs
as well as the experience in the field, the Howard students are preparing
for work in the field of archeology.
"What you learn in class does not click
until you are in the field," Monroe said as she wiped away sweat from
her brow. "In field work, you get one shot so you must get it right,
so the more experience you have the better."
The archeological site is associated
with L'Hermitage, a plantation established in 1794 by the Vincendières,
a family of French planters who came to Maryland from Saint-Domingue
(known today as Haiti). By 1800, there were 90 slaves at L'Hermitage,
making it the second largest slave population in Frederick County and
among one of the largest in Maryland. Last summer, the remains of six
dwelling houses were uncovered, as well as artifacts associated with
the enslaved occupations of the site from 1794 until 1827. The Vincendières
were said to have fled Haiti ahead of the 1804 slave revolt and brought
12 slaves with them to Maryland. The other 80-plus slaves were acquired
in the U.S.
NPS has helped to maintain the structure
of the original plantation home. The house bears many characteristics
of Haitian architecture. Several of the large French windows in the
front of the house provided an unobstructed view of the plantation.
Two faculty mentors assisted the students
on site – Flordeliz Bugarin, Ph.D., assistant professor, and Eleanor
King, Ph.D., associate professor, in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology.
"This year, the benefit of the brief
field experience to students was immeasurably heightened by the fact
that most of them were familiar with the types of historic artifacts
being found ahead of time," King said. "Several of the students
have been interning this summer with Dr. Bugarin in Howard's archaeological
lab and working with artifacts from other historic African-American
sites. That made it much easier for them to be able to pick out significant
bits and pieces in the screen and on the ground."
The student anthropologists are attempting
to trace history and gain an understanding of the way of life for the
nearly 100 African slaves. For some, the excavation is a personal journey
and allows them to dig deep inside.
project definitely holds a special significance because of my ties to
Haiti. It is a powerful irony that has essentially revolutionized and
altered my understanding of where I come from," said Brueggeman,
born in Arizona to a Haitian father and a Dutch mother.
He adds, "Learning
about the enslaved individuals from Haiti at L'Hermitage and how they
may have lived has given me a whole new level of respect and admiration
for the Haitian people and their resiliency.
Information from the excavations will be used in the development of new exhibits and
interpretive programs focusing on slavery and African-American experiences
at Monocacy National Battlefield.
"The field school provides students
with hands-on experience and exposes them to the work of the National
Park Service whose work is usually viewed as monuments and National
Parks," said project director Joy Beasley, Monocacy National Battlefield's
Cultural Resources Program Manager.
The NPS Cultural Resource Preservation Program
and the Secretary of the Interior's Youth Intake Program have provided
funding for this project. Undergraduate and graduate students from Howard
are joined by students at the University of Maryland College Park, American
University and University of Maryland University College.
Students Digging Through
Slave Village Site at Monocacy National
Researchers explore slave
village site at Monocacy battlefield