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V14 2011 INDEX       E-SYLUM ARCHIVE

The E-Sylum: Volume 14, Number 25, June 19, 2011, Article 16

ANNAPOLIS COIN FIND: SUPERNATURAL PROTECTION?

This article from the Baltimore Sun mentions a silver Spanish coin found in an archeological dig in Annapolis, MD. Unfortunately, it isn't pictured. But what can E-Sylum readers tell us about the purported reason for the hole in it - that it was worn to provide supernatural protection? -Editor

When James Holliday, an African-American who was born a slave but died an Annapolis homeowner, gathered for meals with his family in their brick home just off State Circle in the late 19th century, they dined on fine dishware each plate with its own ornate pattern or crisp white finish.

With what was then considered a prestigious job as a messenger for the superintendent at the U.S. Naval Academy, Holliday could afford to buy his family fancy plates in accordance with Victorian etiquette as relayed in books and newspapers.

But unique to the middle-class, African-American experience in Annapolis, researchers say, was the practice of buying plates of varying patterns not an entire set of dishware in a single design perhaps for financial reasons or perhaps as a way of putting an individual stamp on the table.

Archaeologists from the University of Maryland have painstakingly excavated Holliday's plates, bottles and other items including an 18th-century coin worn as a good-luck charm from the backyard and basement of the East Street home in recent months.

Their work, at the Holliday House and another historic home where African-Americans and later Filipino immigrants lived, concluded Thursday. Now the team will move on to the meticulous process of cleaning, cataloging and studying the items in terms of their historical context and telling this story of Annapolis.

"What we've found here are really some rare finds," said Mark P. Leone, an archaeologist at the University of Maryland, College Park. "They were middle-class and free. That is rare and not frequently explored in Maryland."

Perhaps most interesting, said Leone, is a Spanish coin from 1789. The silver coin has a small, crudely punched hole, indicating that it was worn as a pendant, Leone said, a religious practice thought to provide supernatural protection that can be traced to West African traditions.

To read the complete article, see: Annapolis findings illuminate 19th-century African-American life (www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/anne-arundel/bs-md-ar-
annapolis-archeological-dig-20110616,0,1263222.story)

Wayne Homren, Editor

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