35 18th century bottles filled with cherries unearthed by archaeologists at George Washington’s Mount Vernon

The story of a six-year-old George Washington cutting down a cherry tree may be a myth, but archaeologists excavating Mount Vernon, home of the first president of the United States, made the very real discovery of 35 glass bottles filled with cherries and berries .

The bottles were found in five storage pits in the mansion’s basement, 29 of which were intact and contained “perfectly preserved cherries and berries, likely gooseberries or currants,” according to a news release from Mount Vernon in George Washington on Thursday.

Crews unearthed the 18th-century bottles during the ongoing $40 million revitalization project launched last year in Mount Vernon, Virginia.

The bottles have been removed from the wells and cooled, and are expected to undergo scientific analysis, the release said.

The slow-drying bottles, “composed of materials and foodstuffs that are likely 250 years old,” will be sent from Mount Vernon’s archeology laboratory to an off-site location for preservation, according to the press release.

The latest discovery comes after the recent discovery of two intact European-made glass bottles, also from the 18th century, filled with liquid, cherries and stones in the same cellar, the organization said.

Cherries and stones were removed from the 18th century glass bottles.  -Courtesy of Mount Vernon Ladies' AssociationCherries and stones were removed from the 18th century glass bottles.  -Courtesy of Mount Vernon Ladies' Association

Cherries and stones were removed from the 18th century glass bottles. -Courtesy of Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association

“Now we know these bottles were just the beginning of this blockbuster discovery,” Doug Bradburn, president and CEO of Mount Vernon, said in a statement.

Bradburn called the discoveries “an unprecedented find,” adding that “nothing of this magnitude and significance has ever been excavated in North America.”

“The bottles and their contents are a testament to the knowledge and skill of the enslaved people who managed food preparations from tree to table,” said Jason Boroughs, Mount Vernon’s chief archaeologist.

According to Bradburn, the bottles may have been forgotten when Washington left Mount Vernon to take command of the Continental Army.

“These artifacts probably haven’t seen the light of day since before the American Revolution,” he said. “It is so fitting that these bottles were unearthed shortly before the 250th anniversary of the United States.”

Bradburn added that the organization’s team is hopeful that the cherry stones will be viable for future germination.

Mount Vernon worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service to analyze the contents of the bottles.

In the early stages of the analysis, researchers identified 54 cherry stones and 23 stems, suggesting the bottles were likely once full of cherries, the release said.

“The cherries are probably of a sour variety, which has a more acidic composition, which may have contributed to their storage,” the press release said.

The cherries are likely candidates for DNA extraction, which could help researchers compare them to a database to identify their exact species, the release said.

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