Archaeologists find African `spirit bundle' in ancient Annapolis gutter

Annapolis, USA - University of Maryland archaeologists have found what they believe to be one of the earliest examples of the spiritual traditions brought to North America by African slaves. The bundle of sand and clay, packed with metal bits and a stone ax, is estimated to be 300 years old.

University of Maryland anthropologist Mark Leone, who directed the project, said the object appears to be an example of African religious practices and not a later mix of African and American practices.

Archaeologists believe the 10-inch tall bundle, which contained hundreds of pieces of lead shot, pins and nails, was used to ward off spirits. It was possibly placed in the gutter because running water was believed to carry spirits, researchers say.

The dig was conducted before a project to lay utility cables in an area that was once part of the city's early waterfront. The bundle was found four feet below street level in the city's historic district, about 1,000 feet from the Statehouse.

It went on display Tuesday at the Banneker-Douglass Museum, which is devoted to African-American history and culture.