Catholic University of America


This project seeks to make archaeological evidence from former Jesuit plantations in Maryland accessible to members of the GU272 descendant community through the development of an interactive website and educational materials. Archaeological projects provide a unique opportunity to address historical silences by examining material evidence of enslaved lives on these plantations. The goal of this project is to provide GU272 descendants with multiple ways to connect with their ancestors, their family histories, and each other through the medium of archaeology and place. This goal will be accomplished in three specific ways. First, the project will develop a website that not only presents archaeological evidence through images, maps, and text, but allows descendants to share their own interpretations of that evidence through comments. Second, it will conduct 3D scanning of archaeological artifacts, which will be made available through the website and a SketchFab page. Third, it will develop archaeology lesson plans for teaching about enslavement through the lens of the GU272 and their life at plantations such as St. Inigoes and Newtown, which incorporate 3D scanned/printed artifacts. Moreover, places and material objects, made accessible as virtual resources, provide members of the geographically dispersed GU272 descendant community with an opportunity to connect with resources that are not physically accessible. We envision this website as an archaeological companion to the Georgetown Slavery Archive. To paraphrase the words of one descendant, doing publicly oriented research about family histories is part of a process of intergenerational healing. Telling stories about ancestors is a way of showing deep gratitude for their perseverance through enslavement.

Principal Investigators

Laura Masur

Assistant Professor, Catholic University of America

Laura Masur is an assistant professor of anthropology and a historical archaeologist with a background in public and community engagement. She has been involved in archaeological research at Colonial Williamsburg, Historic St. Mary’s City, the Alexandria Archaeological Museum, the Fairfield Foundation, and Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, among other publicly oriented organizations. Her research focuses on the system of plantations that supported the Society of Jesus in Maryland, and were home to generations of enslaved and free African-Americans. Following the completion of her dissertation, which examined past archaeological and historical research on these plantations, Dr. Masur has begun a related archaeological research project that involves active collaboration with members of the GU272 descendant community. This research project is focused on searching for slave quarters and understanding how plantation landscapes would have been experienced by their enslaved and free residents. A community of descendants from Maryland and throughout the United States advises this research through monthly Zoom meetings and other communications, as well as active participation in archaeological research.

Melissa Kemp

Assistant Professor, University of Texas Austin

Melissa Kemp is an assistant professor of integrative biology at the University of Texas at Austin. A paleobiologist by training, Dr. Kemp uses the fossil record to understand how vertebrates responded to past instances of change in complex socio-environmental systems. A passionate science communicator and educator, she regularly engages K–12 students and educators in her research and teaches undergraduate and graduate-level courses on experiential learning in K–12 environments. She is a direct descendant of Louisa Mahoney Mason, one of the last people enslaved by the Maryland Jesuits, and generations of her family continued to serve the Jesuits after emancipation at the Woodstock Theological Seminary in Woodstock, Maryland, where she was born and raised.

Bernard Means

Teaching Assistant Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University

I have a BA in anthropology and a minor in physics from Occidental College, Los Angeles, and a PhD in anthropology from Arizona State University, Tempe. My dissertation research involved revealing the geometric patterns rooted in ideological and political principles that underlay the community patterning in circular village settlements. My scholarly pursuits include reconstructing American Indian village life from cross-cultural studies of village spatial and social organizations, the research potential of archaeological collections, and the history of archaeology across the Americas, especially during the Great Depression. I am the author of Circular Villages of the Monongahela Tradition (2007) and editor of and contributor to the Shovel Ready: Archaeology and Roosevelt’s New Deal for America (2013), as well as numerous articles on the Monongahela tradition, New Deal archaeology, and applications of three-dimensional (3-D) scanning and printing to archaeology, especially public outreach. Currently, I am an assistant professor of anthropology at the School of World Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University and director of the Virtual Curation Laboratory. In the Virtual Curation Laboratory, my students and I are creating 3-D digital models of historical, archaeological, and paleontological objects used for teaching, research, and public outreach from across the Americas as well as northern India.

Jared Koller

Senior Researcher, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Jared Koller is the information and website manager for the American Society of Overseas Research (ASOR) and a researcher for the Asian Cultural History Program, Smithsonian Institution. Koller is also a doctoral candidate in Archaeology at Boston University. He conducts research throughout SE Asia and central Asia, in addition to previous work at Bir Madkhur, Jordan, and Bladensburg, Maryland. Koller's research focuses on colonial contact in Asia by utilizing new media tools to conduct experimental investigations in landscape and environmental change over time.