Darnall's Chance Burial Vault

Darnall's Chance Burial Vault (HMXT)

Location: Upper Marlboro, MD 20772 Prince George's County
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Country: United States of America
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N 38° 49.168', W 76° 44.974'

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An 18th century underground brick burial vault containing the remains of nine unidentified individuals was discovered in 1987 during an archaeological survey of the rear yard.

Evidence suggests that the vault was built by James Wardrop, a wealthy Upper Marborough merchant who built the large brick dwelling house in 1742. The only archival reference to the vault is a 1788 deed which made mention of "...the small square of ground in the garden which covers the family vault to which vault ... heirs are to have from time to time access."

In 1990, an archaeological excavation of the vault was conducted in order to gather information for its future restoration and interpretation. During the excavation, it was discovered that the interior of the vault was completely filled with 18th and 19th century household trash and building debris. The trash is thought to have originated from a nearby kitchen midden (trashpot) and was dumped into the vault through two large openings in the collapsed roof.

Forensic anthropologists from the Smithsonian Institution assisted in the recovery of the human skeletal remains found on the vault floor. The skeletal remains were then transferred to the Museum of Natural History for study and analysis. The restoration of the roof, steps and su-crypt were completed in 2002 and the remains were re-interred in 2004.

(Caption to photographs in the lower left of the marker)Thousands of 18th and 19th century household and personal artifacts were recovered from the burial vault. Examples include Pearlware sugarbowl 1790 - 1810, green shell edged Pearlware plate 1800 - 1830, delft jar lid mid 1700's, bone toothbrushes late 1700's, white salt-glazed earthenware mid 1700's and food remains (oyster shells and pig and fowl bones).

(Caption of diagram on upper right side of marker)The interior of the vault is ten feet wide by seventeen feet long and accessed by a stairway that is covered by modern wooden floors.

(Caption of photo on middle right side of marker)Interred in the vault are nine Caucasians including one adult male, two adult females, two children and four infants (under the age of one year). Radioisotope readings taken of the teeth of the five oldest individuals determined that they were native-born Americans. The presence of numerous cavities and slight arthritis suggest that they lived a sedentary lifestyle featuring a sugar rich diet and light work load.

(Caption of photo on lower right side of marker)The adult male (age 40 - 54) was interred in a wooden coffin and then buried in a brick sub-crypt. The remaining individuals were also interred in wooden coffins and placed on bricks that rested on the clay floor.
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Tuesday, September 30th, 2014 at 2:37am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18S E 348112 N 4298196
Decimal Degrees38.81946667, -76.74956667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 38° 49.168', W 76° 44.974'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds38° 49' 10.08" N, 76° 44' 58.44" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)301, 202, 410
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 14800 Governor Oden Bowie Dr, Upper Marlboro MD 20772, US
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