Category Archives: NORTH AMERICA

‘Extraordinary archaeological find’: Last known US slave ship found in Alabama

‘Extraordinary archaeological find’: Last known US slave ship found in Alabama

'Extraordinary archaeological find': Last known US slave ship found in Alabama
It was torched and then sunk to the bottom of a river, but historians say they have now identified the remains of the last ship to carry slaves to the U.S.

The last U.S. slave ship, the Clotilda, was finally located at the bottom of the Mobile River in Alabama after a lot of searching.

The announcement comes one year after the release of the lost interview with a survivor of that ship by Zora Neale Hurston, and only a month after a scholar discovered that the last survivor of Clotilda lived until 1937.

It holds special significance for the residents of Africatown, Alabama, many of whom are descended from the Africans illegally trafficked on the Clotilda in 1860.

“It’s a wonderful discovery,” says Sylviane A. Diouf, a visiting scholar at Brown University’s Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice and author of Dreams of Africa in Alabama: The Slave Ship Clotilda and the Story of the Last Africans Brought to America.

“This is the only one so far that has been found which came directly from Africa to the Americas with people on board.” (The recently-discovered São José was on its way to Brazil but crashed in South Africa near Cape Town.)

The discovery is also significant because the Clotilda is already the most well-documented slave ship story in the Americas. “If it had only been a ship without the story, then that’s interesting,” Diouf says. “But we have the entire story.

So this is the first time that we have the entire story of what happened to the people who were on the ship and we have the ship as well.”The research initiative that found the Clotilda was partly motivated by the discovery of another ship in January 2018 that some thought might have been the Clotlida.

Afterward, the Alabama Historical Commission funded further efforts to find the Clotilda, which a slave trader had burned and then sunk to the bottom of the river to hide the evidence of its illegal journey.

Excavators ended up combing through a section of the Mobile River that had never been dredged before. Among the many sunken ships there, they found one that historians could confidently say matched the description of the Clotilda.

On January 2, 2018, in Mobile County, Alabama, remains of a ship were found that were originally believed to be the Clotilda, the last documented slave ship to have delivered captive Africans to the United States.

The more than 100 African children, teenagers and young adults on the Clotilda arrived in Alabama just one year before the Civil War.

When the U.S. officially abolished slavery in 1865, these young people had no means to travel back home, so some created a community called “African Town” in Alabama. The town helped preserve the stories of these people, some of whom carried their memories of capture and enslavement into the 20th century.

Unlike most slave ship survivors in history who remained largely undocumented, we have pictures and interviews of people who came over on the Clotilda. We even have film footage of the last known survivor, a woman born with the name “Redoshi” who went by “Sally Smith.”

When Zora Neale Hurston interviewed Cudjo Lewis, a founding member of African Town in the 1920s and ‘30s, he could still remember the disorienting trauma of being captured and enslaved at age 19.

“We doan know why we be bring ’way from our country to work lak dis,” said Lewis, originally named “Kossula.” “Everybody lookee at us strange. We want to talk wid de udder colored folkses but dey doan know whut we say.”

It’s not clear what will happen to the Clotilda’s remains, but residents of Africatown hope to highlight it in a way that draws tourism and business.

Africatown is home to a low-income community that has survived Hurricane Katrina and dangerous levels of industrial pollution, including from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

One option is to create a water memorial that people can visit, like the one commemorating the U.S.S. Arizona in Pearl Harbor.“As a symbol, I think it’s crucial,” Diouf says of the discovery. “And I think for Africatown today, which is really a community that is struggling very much, it really puts Africatown on the map. And hopefully some good will come out of it.”

Source: usatoday

19th-Century Military Complex Unearthed in Canada

19th-Century Military Complex Unearthed in Canada

Workers on Parliament Hill dig through the remains of one of the three barracks used to house soldiers and their wives from 1826 to the late 1850s, during the initial stages of the Rideau Canal's construction.
Workers on Parliament Hill dig through the remains of one of the three barracks used to house soldiers and their wives from 1826 to the late 1850s, during the initial stages of the Rideau Canal’s construction. 

The remains of a military complex that predates both the Confederation and the foundation of Ottawa are buried under the flowers, trees and statues dotting Parliament Hill’s grounds.

Since April, an archeology team has been working to unravel the complex’s ruins as part of Center Block’s ongoing renovations.

What they’ve uncovered so far — barracks, an old guardhouse, and what was the former city of Bytown’s first jail — is just a small tidbit of what may be to come.

The complex contains the remnants of what existed on Parliament Hill before Centre Block was built, during the time the Rideau Canal was first being constructed.

“This was the headquarters for the entire canal construction for the soldiers,” said Stephen Jarrett, archeology project manager with Centrus, a consortium providing architectural and engineering services for the Centre Block rehabilitation project.

Coins, military tags, other items

The canal’s construction was overseen by Lt. Col. John By, for whom Bytown was named.

Three barracks, a guardhouse, a jail, stables, and cookhouses were all built on the north half of the hill starting in 1826 for the Royal Sappers and Miners Regiment, who were tasked with the backbreaking work of digging out more than 200 kilometers of earth from the Ottawa River to Kingston, Ont.

The items uncovered so far include a range of military items: chin straps, tags, gorgets  — which officers often wore to hold their neckties in place — and other domestic items, like coins.

Many of the items uncovered during the excavation date to the early 19th century, when time the Royal Sappers and Miners had a military complex on the hill during the construction of the Rideau Canal.
Many of the items uncovered during the excavation date to the early 19th century, when time the Royal Sappers and Miners had a military complex on the hill during the construction of the Rideau Canal.
Two coins from 1813 and 1844 were uncovered on Thursday. 

Check the outhouses

But there might be more left to uncover, in a somewhat unusual spot: the privies.”It’s an excellent place to dispose of things,” said Jarrett.

The complex had several multi-chambered outhouses to accommodate the 150 soldiers, plus around 40 of their wives, who all lived in the barracks.

With no modern-day plumbing, it doesn’t take much to imagine the odour.”You need to keep the smell down from the human waste, and so you put fill layers on top in order to keep the smell down,” Jarrett said.”So that comes with all the broken dishes and anything else that can help keep that smell down.

Stephen Jarrett is the project manager for the excavation taking place on Parliament Hill.
Stephen Jarrett is the project manager for the excavation taking place on Parliament Hill. 

“One such latrine was built south of where the entrance to the Senate is now, near the east side of Centre Block. But there are likely many more dotting Parliament Hill.”

Privies fill up over time,” Jarrett said. “So they do get moved through time, as well.”

Ottawa’s first jail

Bytown became a city and was renamed Ottawa on New Year’s Day, 1855.

Before Ottawa became the country’s capital — or even a city, for that matter — it was a small town that didn’t have a jail. Prisoners had to be held at the courthouse in Perth, Ont., instead.

An 1853 map of Barrack Hill — now known as Parliament Hill — shows where the soldiers' barracks, officers' quarters, stables and guardhouse used to be.
An 1853 map of Barrack Hill — now known as Parliament Hill — shows where the soldiers’ barracks, officers’ quarters, stables and guardhouse used to be. 

The military had the only three cells in the community, located in the back of the jailhouse (which was later converted to a hospital).”The three cells were some of the only places to hold individuals properly,” Jarrett said. “So the military allowed the constables to hold prisoners inside their jailhouse until they were able to transport them all the way to [Perth].”Three years after Ottawa came into existence, it was named the capital of the United Province of Canada by Queen Victoria.

Soon afterward, the military complex was demolished so that the first parliament buildings could go up.

The excavation of the guardhouse and barracks is set to be completed by the fall. It’s expected to cost around $1.2 million and is being paid for by Public Services and Procurement Canada as part of the budget for the Centre Block renovations.

The artifacts will be cleaned and analyzed by the department before being put on display for the public.

A worker sifts through the remnants of the site of the old guardhouse and jail cells just east of Centre Block. A variety of items have been found there, including pins and chin straps.
A worker sifts through the remnants of the site of the old guardhouse and jail cells just east of Centre Block. A variety of items have been found there, including pins and chin straps. 

Why this retired archeologist is convinced New Brunswick is home to a lost Viking settlement

Why this retired archeologist is convinced New Brunswick is home to a lost Viking settlement

Birgitta Wallace, a Parks Canada researcher, in Greenland.

Did Vikings visit New Brunswick’s Miramichi and Chaleur Bay areas? According to the research done by Birgitta Wallace, senior archaeologist emerita with Parks Canada, they did. 

“I’m really convinced that the Vikings did visit that area. Not all my colleagues would agree with me,” said the woman who’s been studying Vikings for 50 years.

While she is certain the Vikings did spend time in Miramichi and Chaleur Bay, she says she is not hopeful of ever finding anything to prove it.

Wallace said she determined that the second location that Vikings visited in North America, known as “Hóp,” meaning “tidal lagoon,” was in the Miramichi and Chaleur region after she studied the Vikings sagas. She also drew on her extensive work at L’Anse aux Meadows, located on the very northern tip of Newfoundland. 

Sagas tell Viking history

The sagas are contained in medieval documentation from Iceland that goes back to the oral history of the Vikings. They were not written down until 300 years after the actual events occurred, so Wallace said the oral telling of the stories may have changed a bit over time. “There are two separate manuscripts…that talk about voyages to what must be North America because it’s land west and south of Greenland.” 

Wallace said while Vikings settled on Iceland and then Greenland, they continued exploring — either by accident or intentionally – to new lands. “These were people who just settled in Greenland in 985. They were immigrating there from Iceland.” Wallace said when voyages began between Norway or Iceland and Greenland, it was inevitable that someone would get blown off course. She believes this is how they found North America. 

Two versions

The archaeologist said there are two versions of the story. One talks about Leif Erikson retracing the watery path of one of these off-course trips, but it only talks about one settlement where he built a base camp and made four expeditions. 

The other story features a different person and combines all the expeditions into one that go between two areas: “Hóp,” meaning “tidal lagoon,” a summer camp and a settlement further north described as being in fjord. 

Vikings settled at the L’Anse aux Meadows site on the northern peninsula of Newfoundland. 

“After working a lot with the  L’Anse Meadows and what we found there, it’s really clear that L’Anse Meadows is base camp…it fits with everything,” said Wallace. “And from that camp… we know they went farther south and we know they must have gone as far south as eastern New Brunswick.” 

Wallace believes those explorations were done through the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which would have led the Vikings to find the Miramichi and Chaleur regions. Wallace based her conclusions on the finding of pieces of wood, butternuts and butternut wood at the L’Anse Meadows camp.”And butternuts have never grown north of northeastern New Brunswick. They are not native to either P.E.I. or Nova Scotia, so New Brunswick is the closest location.” 

Description fits

Wallace said the descriptions in the sagas match that part of N.B. well. “It talks about sandbars outside the coast, rivers and wonderful hardwoods and not the least, wild grapes. And it so happens that butternuts grow in pretty much the same location as grapes and ripen at the same time,” she said.  

“So, whoever picked those nuts would have seen those grapes.”

Situated in Newfoundland and Labrador, L’Anse aux Meadows is believed to be where the the Vikings, the first Europeans, landed in the new world. In 1978 it became a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Wallace said the area would have been considered of great importance because it was called Vinland in the saga, which means wine land.”Vinland wasn’t one particular spot, it was land like Iceland and Greenland, a country or region.” 

The archaeologist says she believes about 40 men would spend 3 months exploring the region, sleeping in structures built with turf with no permanent roofs, just a canvas-like material.”And to find anything like that after 1,000 years, people that were very anxious I’m sure to take all their tools and belongings with them back, it’s not very likely that we can ever find particular, physical evidence like we do have in L’Anse Meadows.” 

Encounters with Indigenous inhabitants

But Wallace points out another strong indication the Vikings visited the area is found in the strong similarities of the descriptions in Leif Erikson’s saga and Jacques Cartier’s journal.

“It is exactly the same type of description.” Her belief is strengthened by the saga’s description of the Vikings encounters with most of the Indigenous inhabitants at “Hóp.” “That would fit this area very well,” she said.

Birgitta Wallace says the Vikings likely encountered the Indigenous inhabitants of Metepenagiag. 

“It would be the ancestors of Mi’kmaq and you have Red Bank, Metepenagiag which has been inhabited for 3,000 years or more.” Wallace is finding the sudden interest in this part of the story of the Vikings’ expedition humorous considering she’s been researching and writing about it for several years. She thinks an article she recently had published is the reason. “Somehow, it grabbed people’s attention,” she said with a laugh. “The interest in Vikings is astounding to me.” 

Source: nationalpost

Low Water Levels Reveal Riverboat Artifacts in Canada

Low Water Levels Reveal Riverboat Artifacts in Canada

These days, take a walk along the Yukon River in Whitehorse and you may spot things you rarely see — historical objects and structures typically well hidden under water or ice.

“Like, here is a log cradle, or a crib, used to support sternwheelers when they were pulled out of the river in the winter,” archeologist Ty Heffner of the Yukon government said as he walked along the river bank.

Water in the Yukon River system is very low this spring. Vast gravel bars flank the stream in many areas, and Heffner says lots of artifacts can now be seen in the mud and rocks.

That might include anything from old rusty nails and wooden logs and planks, to iron fixtures.  “If you think about all the activity that happened here, there were sternwheelers that were built here, there were sternwheelers that burned here.

There were warehouses and wharves and all kinds of activity — and the historical evidence here just relates to that,” Heffner said.

Government archeologist Ty Heffner says the artifacts can make for an interesting walk along the river, but people should be sure to leave what they find. 

“People can come down here and have a look at these items, and it just provides that tangible link to the past.” Murray Lundberg, an amateur historian in Whitehorse, says there’s a lot to see.

Most of what he calls the “good stuff” — things made of copper or brass — has likely been removed over the years, but there’s a lot of wood and steel all over the place.”

Anywhere there’s a calm spot, there’s a pretty impressive deposit of artifacts, still,” Lundberg said.”One of the problems we have right now is that nothing’s ever been cataloged because we’ve never seen the river this low — so it all has potentially significant historical interest.”

‘It all has potentially significant historical interest,’ said amateur historian Murray Lundberg. 

Lundberg says that’s why it’s best if people don’t pocket the things they find. “Collectors have done a lot of damage to sites like this — not just here, but everywhere,” he said.

According to Heffner, removing an object could also be an offense under Yukon’s Historic Resources Act.

‘People can come down here and have a look at these items, and it just provides that tangible link to the past,’ Heffner says. 

“People, you know, might not really think about that or realize that these are protected heritage resources and that they should not take it away,” Heffner said.”These pieces of our heritage are best left where they currently are.”

Source: vtn

Toppled Trees in Florida Reveal 19th-Century Fort where 270 escaped slaves died

Toppled Trees in Florida Reveal 19th-Century Fort where 270 escaped slaves died

A post overlooking the Apalachicola River, 200 years ago, housed what historians say was North America’s largest community of freed slaves at the time.

Hurricane Michael has given archaeologists an unprecedented opportunity to study its story, a significant tale of black resistance that ended in bloodshed. The site, also known as Fort Gadsden, is about 70 miles southwest of Tallahassee in the Apalachicola National Forest near the hamlet of Sumatra.

Volunteer Marilyn Spores digs for artifacts in the roots of a fallen tree as the U.S. Forest Service studies the land where the Negro Fort stood at Prospect Bluff in the Apalachicola National Forest Wednesday, April 17, 2019.
Volunteer Marilyn Spores digs for artifacts in the roots of a fallen tree as the U.S. Forest Service studies the land where the Negro Fort stood at Prospect Bluff in the Apalachicola National Forest Wednesday, April 17, 2019. 

British lived at Prospect Bluff with allied escaped slaves, called Maroons, who joined the British military in exchange for freedom, along with Seminole, Creek, Miccosukee, and Choctaw tribe members.

The Negro Fort, which was built on the site by the British during the War of 1812, became a haven for escaped slaves. Inside, 300 barrels of gunpowder were stored, and defended by both women and men. Wary of the group of armed former slaves in Spanish Florida living so close to the United States border, U.S. soldiers began to attack.

On July 27, 1816, U.S. forces led by Colonel Duncan Clinch ventured down the river and fired a single shot at the fort’s magazine. It exploded, killing 270 escaped slaves and tribes people who were inside. Those who survived were forced back into slavery.

Local historian Dale Cox talks about the history of the Negro Fort that stood at Prospect Bluff in the Apalachicola National Forest Wednesday, April 17, 2019
Local historian Dale Cox talks about the history of the Negro Fort that stood at Prospect Bluff in the Apalachicola National Forest Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Managed by the U.S. Forest Service, which purchased it in the 1940s, the site has been preserved as a National Historic Landmark and park. Because of that, it was never excavated for artifacts, except in 1963 by Florida State University, mainly to identify structural remains.“It’s a really intriguing story. There’s so much new ground there that historians of the past never really got into,” said Dale Cox, a Jackson County-based historian.

In an ironic way, Hurricane Michael has changed that — an isolated upside of the devastating storm. The October Category 5 hurricane caused extensive damage to the site, toppling about 100 trees.

Most of the debris has been cleared, but under the remaining massive roots, archaeologists began this month to dig and sift through the soil, uncovering small artifacts and documenting archaeological features revealed by the upturned trees.

The effort is funded by a $15,000 grant awarded from the National Park Service and is in partnership with the Southeast Archaeological Center.”The easy, low-hanging fruit is European trade ware that dates to that time period.

But when you have ceramics that were made by the locals, it’s even more unique and special,” said U.S. Forest Service Archaeologist Rhonda Kimbrough. “For one thing, there’s not much of it, and we don’t have a whole lot of historical records other than the European view from what life in these Maroon communities was like.”

So far, Kimbrough and others have found bits of Seminole ceramics, shards of British black glass and gun flint and pipe smoking fragments. They’ve also located the area of a field oven, a large circular ditch that surrounds a fire pit.

The British flag flies over the location of the Negro Fort that stood at Prospect Bluff in the Apalachicola National Forest Wednesday, April 17, 2019.
The British flag flies over the location of the Negro Fort that stood at Prospect Bluff in the Apalachicola National Forest Wednesday, April 17, 2019.

The fort was recently inducted into the National Park Service’s Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.”It’s like connecting the sites, pearls on a string,” said Kimbrough, “because these sites, even though they’re spread all over the place, they’re connected by one thing, which is resistance to slavery.”

Historian Cox has been tracking down the former slaves who died at the fort and the descendants of the few who made it out alive, like Polydore, who escaped and was recaptured to work for Andrew Jackson. Cox found his descendants who now live in Louisiana.

Miniature figurines depicting Fort Gadsden created by William Greer were exhibited at the Fort Gadsden new museum in Sumatra.
Miniature figurines depicting Fort Gadsden created by William Greer were exhibited at the Fort Gadsden new museum in Sumatra.

It’s been a slow process of sifting through Census records, which are private for 72 years before release, international archives of Great Britain as well as Spanish archives in Cuba. But Cox is on a quest to name as many as possible.

The people who lived in the Maroon community were very skilled, he said. Many were masons, woodworkers, farmers. They tended the surrounding melon and squash fields, but little is known precisely about their day-to-day lives.

The area has always been ideal for settling, given its higher elevation and clearings amid the river’s mostly swampy perimeter, said Andrea Repp, a U.S. Forest Service archaeologist. Prior to European occupation, the site was sacred to natives and was named Achackweithle, which resembles the words for “standing view” in Creek, according to the Florida Geological Survey. Matthew Shack, a Panama City historian, praised the archaeological effort.

Key persons responsible for research and development of the model of Fort Gadsden now on display at the new museum are shown looking at the finished replica. Standing, left to right, are Patrick Elliot, museum artist; Eddie Nesmith of Apalachicola, retired park supt. At the historic site; Jesse Fairley Jr., museum preparatory; and William Greer of Eastpoint, military miniature figure designer.
Key persons responsible for research and development of the model of Fort Gadsden now on display at the new museum are shown looking at the finished replica. Standing, left to right, are Patrick Elliot, museum artist; Eddie Nesmith of Apalachicola, retired park supt. At the historic site; Jesse Fairley Jr., museum preparatory; and William Greer of Eastpoint, military miniature figure designer.

Shack, 76, is a descendant of Maroons. His great great grandfather escaped a North Carolina plantation, married a part-Native American woman and settled in Marianna. He remembers his grandmother’s stories about the Prospect Bluff community.

“I remember her telling us about the ‘Colored Fort’ and all the colored folk who died,” he said. “A lot of black history wasn’t taught. A lot of our history is lost, and some of it we won’t get back. I’m glad that there’s a renewed interest in capturing the history that I thought was lost.”