'Extraordinary find': Archeologists begin studying bottles of 18th-century cherries discovered at Mt. Vernon

Archaeologists at George Washington’s Mount Vernon made a major discovery last month: Two glass bottles from the 18th century, filled with what are believed to be cherries, possibly belonging to George Washington.

"For whatever reason, these were left behind and they were in pristine condition, and that’s why this is such an extraordinary find because you just don’t find 18th-century food remains, intact, outside of things like animal bones, which are pretty durable," said Jason Boroughs, Principal Archeologist at Mount Vernon.

A team of archeologists was digging in the cellar of the mansion on property in preparation for a revitalization project to the home.

Nick Beard was the archaeologist who made the discovery.

He said it’s normal to find fragments, but finding a whole bottle is rare. Finding a liquid inside, even more so.

"Just the fact that there was liquid at all. That, right there, sets off alarm bells," Beard said. "If there’s water, or liquid, pooling in there like that means it’s very intact, it’s in very good shape."

Beard found two bottles in one pit in the cellar.

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Lily Carhart is a curator at Mount Vernon and said word got around quickly.

"Just getting a call that, oh, we’re already starting to see a bottle that’s containing liquid was almost unbelievable, and then to see we have a second one, and it just keeps growing," Carhart said.

Because of historical records about updates and expansions to the home, Jason Boroughs says they have a pretty good idea what happened.  The fruit was put in bottles, sealed, and buried underground; the refrigeration of its day. Then, during construction, it may have been forgotten about.

"One of the best ways to store these types of fruits and vegetables was underground, so sometime after 1758 but before 1776, someone dug a pit sort of a rectangular about a foot deep hole through one of the floors in the cellar, these bottles were set in, and then it was filled with a dense clay," Boroughs said.

Monday, a third bottle was found in the same cellar but a nearby pit.

"It’s astounding for us," Lily Carhart said of these discoveries.

The liquid and cherries in the two bottles already discovered has been poured out.  It’ll be examined and studied, as historians aim to study everything from food preservation to how enslaved people worked at Mount Vernon.

"It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime sort of thing," Beard said.