Welcome to NegrotownAfrican Diaspora Archaeology in Western Connecticut Ryan W. Hewey and Warren R. PerryCentral Connecticut State University Archaeologists have recently found evidence that African settlement patterns and spiritual beliefs continued to shape the ways that people of African descent went about their daily lives, even in the quiet backwoods of Western Connecticut. This summer, CCSU’s Archaeological Laboratory for African and African Diaspora Studies (ALAADS), working in conjunction with the Metropolitan District Commission, began investigations into a recently rediscovered Colonial-era community known as Negrotown, located within what was once Simsbury but is now New Hartford. Occupied roughly between 1770 to 1822, Negrotown was a small community of people of primarily African, Native American, or mixed descent, who lived on land held by Captain Dudley Case, a wealthy farmer, mill owner and abolitionist who employed a number of the community’s members. Negrotown served as a temporary home for many families of color during a time when many captive Africans were being granted their freedom in New England. While there are no known records of the size of the community, one source mentions that there were, “many blacks; some in comfort, [i.e. in permanent housing], and plenty of other hangers-on.” The only other known contemporary description conflates the community with Satan’s Kingdom, a nearby settlement, saying that the area was “so recruited by negroes, Indians, and renegade whites that it was the most populous part of town by 1780, and an asylum for criminals.” The ALAADS team has been able to identify more than 30 persons of African or mixed heritage who occupied Negrotown before its forced evacuation following Capt. Case’s death. Despite the disparaging remarks, multi-ethnic outsider communities played a significant role in the economic, social, and political development of New England, as archaeology conducted by CCSU faculty and students has shown. Thanks to its location, and to its African-influenced social and occupational structure, we believe that Negrotown served as a mediator between at least six white communities (Avon, Barkhamsted, Canton, Collinsville, New Hartford, Simsbury) and two other outsider communities (the Lighthouse in Barkhamsted and Danbury Quarter in Winsted). It is highly likely that Negrotown’s non-traditional social and commercial networks had effects on both the developing local capitalist industry and on the marginal industries of the outsider communities.From a modern perspective, Negrotown occupies minimally useful land, but its layout has a decidedly African influence. Structures and utilitarian spaces are clustered communally rather than separated over large distances and bound by walls, as was typical of capitalist settlements. In this way, the landscape itself speaks of a preference for collaboration over individualism. In 2008, our team located several archaeological features, including foundations, property and retaining walls, a breakwater along the river, a well, and what is possibly a small cemetery. We conducted preliminary excava-tions in three areas, focusing on a foundation and cellar hole which was likely a residence. The students recovered a variety of domestic ceramics, a number of metal knives and tools, and even a counterfeit George III halfpenny. More interestingly, we recovered a possible indicator of African spiritual practices. Located 44 cm. below the southeast corner of the cellar was a collection of objects that included a large piece of burnt lumber, half of a pearlware bowl, pieces of a larger redware bowl, a pipe stem, blue and green glass fragments, a single large bivalve shell, and a number of bent handmade nails.Bundles of what appear to European-Americans to be “everyday items” have been found at a number of antebellum New England sites associated with peoples of African descent. They tend to be situated in specific locations, such as attics, basements, liminal areas separating indoor and outdoor spaces (such as doorways or window sills), spaces underneath flooring, or spaces near sources of smoke or water, on which it was believed spirits travelled. These spiritual bundles, referred to as nkisi, were—and in many areas still are—deployed as a means of invoking spiritual protection, aid, or attack. Each item has several symbolic meanings and usages within African spiritual contexts. For example, the burnt wood and pipe emit smoke, on which a spirit might travel between this world and the next. Reflective objects, such as the glass sherds, were intended to capture a spirit’s attention. Glass could also symbolize water, believed to be the boundary between the natural and spirit worlds. Bivalve shells, associated with both water and the spirit world, hold myriad meanings and have been utilized world-wide in African influenced spiritual contexts. Nails have been used to awaken spirits and to direct their energies and efforts. Finally, inverted bowls conceal the nkisi from prying eyes while concentrating and directing its power. Through continued analysis of these artifacts and further development of testable hypotheses, we hope to uncover additional information regarding Negrotown’s political, social and economic history. Excavations will progress here for the next several years, and we’ll provide updates as they occur.