Artifacts of former slaves’ village tell historic tale

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A sign for the Timbuctoo site, pictured Sept. 9, 2010, can be found at the intersection of Church and Rancocas roads. (Sarah J. Glover / Pillidelphia News Photographer)
A sign for the Timbuctoo site, pictured Sept. 9, 2010, can be found at the intersection of Church and Rancocas roads. (Sarah J. Glover / Pillidelphia News Photographer)

Summary of  Artifacts at site of former slaves’ village tell historic tale

Over 15,400 artifacts are being curated, analyzed and cataloged from a Temple University excavations at the site of Timbuctoo, a now buried village of freed and runaway slaves along the Rancocas creek, in Burlington County, NJ. Among those artifacts was a tiny cast iron buffalo, attesting to the vitality of once thriving community.

[quote_center]”There was also a little gun and a wagon wheel, all of which might have been part of a bank set” for a child to collect coins, said Patricia Markert, a Temple student who helped manage the school’s field project in 2010 and 2011 and then conducted several smaller digs last year[/quote_center].

Excavations at the site also revealed several house structures, and the outline and corner stone of the church.

The village founded starting around 1825 may have been home to as many as 125 African American Families. It was occupied until the mid-20th century. According to historic deeds the site may have encompassed as many as 40 acres. The village was an important stop along the Underground Railroad. The site cemetery is now the only above ground feature of the site, among the graves are tombstones of 13 members of  the U.S. Colored Troops who fought in the Civil War. Surveys indicated that about 70 people were buried in the cemetery. It is also known as the location of the 1860 Battle of the Pine Swamp, where the village defended a black man against a slave catcher and dozens of helpers.

In was announced that the township would acquire land from adjacent owners to double the size of the protected historical site, to close to 6 acres. The town is also looking into funds to reopen excavation and exploration.

[quote_center]”This site fits in with a larger narrative. . . . It was part of the slaves’ journey, a violent and difficult journey, to freedom,” said Markert, now a student at the University of Maryland pursuing her master’s degree[/quote_center]

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