Archaeologists working in Colonial Williamsburg to unearth what life was like for the original congregants of one of the oldest Black congregations in the country have uncovered one and possibly two graves and more than 12,000 artifacts, including an ink bottle, doll fragments and coins.
Digging beneath a parking lot in the Virginia city, the researchers were able to find the foundations for a brick church built in 1856, what may be an even older church building and a grave or graves potentially for members of the congregation, the Historic First Baptist Church of Williamsburg, Jack Gary, Colonial Williamsburg’s director of archaeology, said Tuesday. Mr. Gary, who is overseeing the excavation, said that there was at least one grave and possibly two and that there were probably more burial shafts at the site.
“When I set foot on the excavation site and listened to the history that they were uncovering, it was an awesome feeling,” said the Rev. Dr. Julie Grace, who was christened at the church in 1949 and is now an associate minister. “To be standing on the same ground of our ancestors — there’s no feeling like realizing that your ancestors have such an important part of history.”
The archaeological project is being backed by leaders of the historic church, whose members include descendants of those who attended the church at the excavation site. The first phase of the dig began in September and ended earlier this month. The next phase is set to begin in January.