Object: Mpungu


Most surviving artifacts from New Amsterdam relate to European settlers, but in 1984, archaeologists found a collection of objects outside of the home of Cornelis Van Tienhoven, Peter Stuyvesant’s secretary, on present-day Pearl Street: a mpungu thought to be created circa 1660 by an enslaved person. Mpungu means “to stick together” and refers to a gathering of objects that in central African culture were invested with healing powers. This collection, featuring bone and shell fragments, marbles, nails, pieces of pipe stems and bowls, glass beads, a copper thimble, and other items, was found in a basket buried in the ground, covered with a Dutch plate. It is an example of how Africans in New Amsterdam sustained their cultural practices in the face of adversity.

The Mpungu was displayed at the New-York Historical Society's 2024 exhibit New York Before New York: The Castello Plan

Many of the enslaved Africans came from the Kingdom of Kongo, and their religious beliefs came with them.   

Additional  reading: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nzambi_a_Mpungu ;  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kongo_religion