More bottles of cherries found buried at George Washington's home

Updated

Buried in the cellar of George Washington's Mount Vernon home, a treasure trove was waiting to be discovered – an enormous amount of preserved cherries. Archaeologists discovered 35 glass bottles with cherries, Mount Vernon officials announced on Thursday, just a few weeks after two bottles were found in April.

"Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine this spectacular archaeological discovery," said Mount Vernon President Doug Bradburn.

Archaeologists discovered 35 glass bottles of cherries in the cellar of George Washington's Mount Vernon home. / Credit: George Brown/ Mount Vernon Ladies' Association
Archaeologists discovered 35 glass bottles of cherries in the cellar of George Washington's Mount Vernon home. / Credit: George Brown/ Mount Vernon Ladies' Association

Mount Vernon officials said the cherries, which included gooseberries and currants, were buried in five storage pits in the mansion's cellar. They had been hidden for about 250 years before being unearthed during ongoing renovation projects at Mount Vernon. Of the 35 bottles, 29 were found intact.

Washington lived at his Virginia family's estate for most of his life. He took over management of the property in 1754, and slowly built and added to the home. The family depended on hundreds of enslaved people to run Mount Vernon.

35 bottles of cherries were discovered buried in the cellar of George Washington's Mount Vernon home. / Credit: George Brown/ Mount Vernon Ladies' Association
35 bottles of cherries were discovered buried in the cellar of George Washington's Mount Vernon home. / Credit: George Brown/ Mount Vernon Ladies' Association

"The bottles and contents are a testament to the knowledge and skill of the enslaved people who managed the food preparations from tree to table, including Doll, the cook brought to Mount Vernon by Martha Washington in 1759 and charged with oversight of the estate's kitchen," Mount Vernon officials said in the statement.

"These artifacts likely haven't seen the light of day since before the American Revolution, perhaps forgotten when George Washington departed Mount Vernon to take command of the Continental Army," Bradburn said.

Cherries discovered buried in the cellar of George Washington's Mount Vernon home are analyzed.  / Credit: George Brown
Cherries discovered buried in the cellar of George Washington's Mount Vernon home are analyzed. / Credit: George Brown

The quality of the preserved, albeit fragile, bottles revealed intact fruit, pits and pulp, providing "an incredibly rare opportunity to contribute to our knowledge of the 18th-century environment, plantation foodways, and the origins of American cuisine," said Jason Boroughs, principal archaeologist at Mount Vernon.

Analysis of a small sample found 54 cherry pits and 23 stems. The stems were neatly cut and left on before the cherries were bottled. Researchers said they believe the pits are ripe for DNA extraction and possible germination.

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