Timbuctoo, NJ

From The Washington Post, “Excavation of sites such as Timbuctoo, N.J., is helping to rewrite African American history”

These are crushed fragments of a past life when free black people lived in this New Jersey community almost 200 years ago — free even then, 45 years before Emancipation. […]

Timbuctoo was founded by freed blacks and escaped slaves in the 1820s. It was probably named after Timbuktu, the town in Mali near the Niger River, although researchers are still trying to find out how and why it got its name. […]

Timbuctoo has always been a secret kind of a place. Had to be, because it was part of the Underground Railroad. There are newer houses here now where some descendants of original settlers still live. But much of the physical history of Timbuctoo is buried underground. Based on a geophysical survey, archaeologists believe that foundations of a whole village of perhaps 18 houses and a church dating back to the 1820s lies beneath layers of dirt.

In June, those archaeologists from Temple University in Philadelphia began unraveling Timbuctoo’s secrets, excavating the hill next to a Civil War cemetery where African American troops are buried. The discoveries are fragile and ordinary artifacts of everyday life — jars for medicines and cosmetics, pieces of shoes, dinner plates — but to the people unearthing them, they are invaluable.

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