After a decade-long excavation at Wye House, a former plantation near Easton, Maryland, where Frederick Douglass spent some time as a child, a team of University of Maryland archaeologists have made an interesting discovery.
In excavations where an African-American tenant farmer’s house once stood in the years immediately following emancipation, the UM team found traditional African religious symbols side by side with markings related to Christianity. They include a cosmogram — a circle-enclosed “X” that is a West Central African religious symbol — as well as a symbol for the blazing chariot wheel mentioned in the Bible’s book of Ezekiel.
Eventually, the two symbols merged into one while remaining meaningful to the area’s African-American religious community.
“No one has found this combination before,” said Mark Leone, UM professor of anthropology. “Christianity had not erased traditional African spirit practices, [which] merged with them to form a potent blend that still thrives today.”