The Banneker site represents the homestead of
the family of Benjamin Banneker, a free African-American who is
best known for his scientific pursuits in astronomy, mathematics,
and surveying. The site was purchased by Benjamin Banneker’s
parents, Robert and Mary Banneky (an earlier spelling of the name)
on March 10, 1737. Benjamin Banneker was six years old at the
time, but he later inherited the farm at age 28, and lived there
for the remainder of his life.
In the 1790s, Benjamin Banneker spent much of
his time on scholarly pursuits such as writing almanacs. Since
he had less time for farming, he rented and sold portions of his
property. Before Banneker died, he made an arrangement with his
friends the Ellicotts to sell them his homestead in exchange for
an annual annuity and life-long tenancy. When he died on October
9, 1806, the farm therefore passed to them. His dwelling was not
occupied after his death, however, because a fire destroyed the
house on the day of his funeral. While later owners and tenants
farmed the land, they did not rebuild on the same site.
The Banneker site was located during a Phase I survey that took
place in 1983. In 1985 Baltimore County purchased the property
to establish a historical park there that would commemorate Benjamin
Banneker. In 1985 and 1986, more intensive excavations were undertaken
to further define the site and assist in planning for its long-term
Excavation units were placed in areas 1A-1D to
explore concentrations noted during the shovel test survey. Testing
in area 1A located a cellar approximately 7.5’ by 6.3’
which was designated Feature 10. Twenty-one contiguous test units
excavated to expose this feature and the surrounding area revealed
the location of a probable dwelling that had been built on piers.
Artifacts indicate the area was used during the early Banneker
occupation and is the probable location of the home built by Benjamin
Area 1B also contained a cellar, Feature 22,
which is interpreted as a later dwelling that had a 14’
by 16’ stone foundation. Evidence of fire, such as melted
glass, charcoal, and burned nails point to this being the primary
residence of the adult Benjamin Banneker that burned down in 1806.
Area 1C yielded a large number of artifacts from
the period of the Banneker occupation, indicating use for unidentified
farm-related activities. Area 1D had little Banneker period material
and seems to have been used by a later owner of the property.
Summary by Sara Rivers Cofield
|Hurry, Robert J
||The Discovery and Archeological Investigation
of the Benjamin Banneker Homestead,
County, Maryland (18BA282). Maryland Historical Trust Press,
The Banneker site archaeological collection
is owned by the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum and
curated at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory.