Experts suspect they’ve finally located a long-lost piece of America’s past that’s haunted archeologists for more than 150 years.
AL.com reporter Ben Raines recently stumbled upon the remains of what could be the Clotilda – the last known slave ship to bring Africans to the United States.
The Clotida went missing when slavers burned the vessel in hopes of destroying any evidence of their illicit activity. Slavery was outlawed in the United States by the mid-1800s but that didn’t stop some smugglers from importing slaves into the south anyways.
“We did not see anything on the site that would say it’s not the Clotilda,” Gregory D. Cook, assistant professor of maritime archaeology at the University of West Florida, told CNN.
Raines brought Cook and several other experts to the site to confirm the ship’s authenticity.
“We think it’s a very compelling possibility that the wreck could be the Clotilda, but we cannot positively identify it at this point,” Cook told CNN.
However, historians believe the discovery is monumental.
“It’s, frankly, of world historical importance,” said John Sledge, an architectural historian with the city of Mobile. “It’s something that’s been of great interest, both locally and nationally … going back more than a century.”
The Clotida’s journey began in 1860 after plantation owner Timothy Meaher made a bet that he could sneak slaves into the United States.
He bought the boat and paid a captain to sail it to West Africa and bring 110 salves across the Atlantic and back to American. After dropping off the Africans, he burned the boat to hide any evidence.
Five years later, many of the slaves were freed after the U.S. ended slavery after the Civil War. Those slaves settled a community in Mobile called Africatown. Some of those slave’s descendants still live there.
If the remains of the wreck are authenticated as the Clotilda, the descendants of the slaves who were brought here will be consulted on decisions surrounding its fate.