While working on the property back in January, archaeologists with the Maryland State Highway Administration discovered what appeared to be a burial ground.
Belvoir, Scott’s Plantation, has long been considered a historic site. But the newest discovery — a cemetery for the tobacco plantation’s slaves — makes it all the more intriguing.
Archaeologists from the Maryland State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) were excavating in the area, which is part of a Transportation Enhancement Project, when they came across field stones — seemingly carefully placed and spaced, as if they were grave markers.
Once a tobacco plantation owned by the grandmother and relatives of Francis Scott Key (of Star Spangled Banner fame), the Belvoir land was home to African American slaves during the 18th and 19th centuries. Over the years, property owners had passed along the oral history of the land amongst themselves — and the fact that there was supposedly a burial ground, though it wasn’t known where exactly.
But after the archaeologists’ discovery, MDOT SHA reached out to Bay Area Recovery Canines, whose trained dogs (able to detect human decomposition even 200 years post-mortem) confirmed in February that there are indeed human remains on the land.
“The topography and location, along with the pattern of field stones and indications by [the] K9 team, are compelling pieces of evidence to indicate that this is, in fact, a long-forgotten cemetery related to residents of the Belvoir plantation,” Jane Cox, the Anne Arundel County Chief of Cultural Resources, said. “The discovery offers tremendous potential to learn about an under-represented part of our county’s history.”
A white marble headstone was also discovered, but the name and date were not legible, due to erosion. Archaeologists believe that it may mark the grave of a four-year-old African-American boy who was buried somewhere on the property back in 1913.
Before the actual names and burial dates of the people in the cemetery can be determined, archaeologists and historians will need to complete further research.
You can view an interesting short documentary about the Belvoir property here:
Belvoir is currently owned by Rockbridge Academy in Crownsville.
What do you think? Are you as intrigued by historic discoveries as I am? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section!