Clues found in bricks at George Washington home in Virginia


Archaeologists have uncovered something of a mystery with bricks found on the Virginia site where George Washington was born.

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A mystery has been uncovered at the Virginia farm where first President George Washington was born in 1732.

Brick fragments with unusual markings have emerged from the dirt, including what appears to be writing.

Historians are trying to figure out what kind of message the 18th century craftsman may have been trying to send—and why it was added.

Among the theories: The marks are “possibly cursive writing or a signature mark,” George Washington Birthplace National Monument wrote in a Facebook post.

“Although not common, these may have been used to indicate the maker or to indicate the intended location of the brick to builders,” the park wrote.

What appears to be finger prints have also been found in bricks at the site, which takes on added significance when knowing some brick makers were enslaved people, the site reports.

The National Park Service called the discoveries exciting, in part because so little is known about the 551-acre site where Washington was born. It is today a national monument, which explains why so much attention is being focused on finding answers.

“Even some of the most mundane objects carry important information about the people who lived, worked, and built the past!” the Northeast Archaeological Resources Program said in a May 3 news release.

The discoveries were made as archaeologists were searching for the actual “birthhouse” of Washington along the Potomac River. The property, which sits along the Maryland state line, was home to the Popes Creek Plantation, and is considered “the American ancestral home of the Washington Family,” according to the National Park Service.

A complex structure known as Building X was long considered the building where Washington may have been born, but historians now have their doubts.

Archaeologists with New South Associates, Inc. found the unusual bricks while excavating room foundations at Building X.

The bricks and other discoveries made at Building X are going to be “examined by experts in the region’s colonial architecture,” New South Associates posted. “And hopefully provide the answer to the mystery of Building X,” the organization wrote on Facebook.

“Brick was both superior to wood frame houses and more expensive. The use of brick symbolized the wealth of homeowners and spoke to the permanent nature of these structures,” park officials said.

“Brickmolders were often skilled craftspeople. Crews, usually composed of enslaved individuals, made up to thousands of bricks per day. Because bricks were made with local materials, their ‘recipes’ or signatures, can be identified.”

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Mark Price has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1991, covering beats including schools, crime, immigration, LGBTQ issues, homelessness and nonprofits. I have graduated from the University of Memphis with majors in journalism and art history, and a minor in geology.

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