Sacred greenhouses.

DiscoveryNews digs up evidence of American slaves holding religious rituals and conducting scientific research in the masters’ greenhouses:

As they dug below a north-facing back room, the researchers found dishes, teacups, cutlery, buttons and other objects. Those objects identified the area as a slave quarter that was occupied between about 1785 and 1820.

About two inches beneath the doorstep outside the quarter’s threshold, they also discovered two projectile points and a coin — signature objects used in African religious traditions to control the coming and going of spirits.

Inside, they found another religious symbol: A stone pestle mortared into the framework of the furnace by the slaves who built it.

In addition to the religious and everyday objects, the researchers were able to document an extensive series of agricultural trials conducted by the slaves who lived there.

Their experiments began with medicinal plants, including Seneca snakeroot, ginger root and buckbean. They also grew broccoli, bananas and wild greens, as well as shrubs and flowering plants.

By the 1820s, they were cultivating more exotic plants, including lemon and orange trees, irises, lilies and members of the rose and nightshade families. As they labored with seeds and clippings, the slaves gained a wealth of gardening knowledge that they held onto as they gained freedom and left the plantations.