Dig-Site Updates from Hampton Civil War Refugee Slave Camp

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archaeologists open new trench Grand Contraband Camp
Archaeologist Dave Hazzard explores the interior of a feature believed to be a barrel-lined well. (Mark St. John Erickson / June 18, 2014)

Last week, we shared a report on the Grand Contraband Slavery Camp excavations in Hampton, VA.

Archaeologists have opened a new trench this week, hoping to add to the rich catalog of nearly 200 features that have been discovered since excavations began about a month ago.

Commissioned by the city, the excavation had previously opened up three other wide trenches near the corner of Lincoln Street and Armistead Avenue, revealing many promising features much more quickly than the archaeologists expected.

Instead of being thwarted by a jumble of disturbances from later construction periods, they’ve not only uncovered dozens of intact targets that may date to the Civil War camp but also done so with surprising ease, JRIA historian Matthew Laird said.

“Even in an area that has been cut through with modern utilities, we’re finding these intact features — and that’s not what we expected,” Laird says, referring to the short-lived and insubstantial construction of the structures erected by a refugee slave population that numbered in the thousands.

“What it demonstrates is the likelihood of finding numerous other patches here and there throughout this property that could be investigated for evidence of the contrabands — if that’s what the city decides it wants.”

Read More: Archaeologists open new trench in search for Hampton’s landmark Civil War refugee slave village

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