By Matt McKnight, Chief Archaeologist
Maryland Day marks the March 25th, 1634 landing of the Ark and the Dove on St. Clement’s Island in the Potomac River. Though the English colonists aboard these vessels made previous landings in the English Caribbean and in Virginia, their arrival at St. Clement’s meant that they had just entered the Province of Maryland, a territory of some 12 million acres granted to Lord Baltimore by Royal Charter from King Charles I. A few days later, the English colonists would sail north to negotiate with the Piscataway Tayac and obtain land for the establishment of their capital at St. Mary’s City. March 25th, 1634 and the events of the following days would be momentous not only for the Maryland colonists, but for other English already settled in the territory, Native Americans, African-Americans that would be forcibly transported into the colony, and rival European powers.
Here at MHT, we take pride in our efforts to support colonial archaeology and the study of Maryland’s colonial history. On this Maryland Day, we thought we would highlight several recent projects of interest focused on Maryland’s colonial period.
Research Support through the Historic Preservation Non-Capital Grant Program. In FY2018 and FY2019, MHT supported critical research into Maryland’s colonial past. In FY18, MHT provided $16,000 in funds to Historic St. Mary’s City to conduct a geophysical survey of two possible locations for the fort built by the first Maryland colonists in 1634. That study identified numerous anomalies of interest at one of the sites, to be ground-truthed using traditional archaeological methods. In FY19, $30,000 in funds were distributed to Historic Sotterley, a late 17th and 18th century colonial plantation in St. Mary’s County to conduct an expanded survey of nearly 50 newly acquired acres that were once a part of the 2,000 acre plantation. Preliminary results suggest that new colonial-era and Native American sites have been identified.
Engagement through MHT Press. In 2019, MHT Press published The Archaeology of Colonial Maryland: Five Essays by Scholars of the Early Province. This heavily-illustrated volume provides the perspectives of five professional archeologists, exploring Maryland’s colonial past from slightly different vantage points. It is written with the general public in mind and is available in paperback and hard bound from MHT Press at https://mht.maryland.gov/home_mhtpress.shtml.
Public Archaeology Opportunities. In 2017 and 2018, the Annual Field Session in Maryland Archaeology, a joint “citizen science” project of the MHT Office of Archaeology and the Archeological Society of Maryland was held at the Calverton site along Battle Creek. Calverton was the 17th century seat of Calvert County government and archaeological work there was able to identify intact remnants of the colonial town. Artifacts from the 2017 and 2018 excavations became a part of the collections at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory. You can learn more about the site and the collections by visiting https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1049440448592531. Archaeological research at Calverton has been supported through the Certified Local Government Program and the Maryland Heritage Areas Program.
Remote Sensing Research by the MHT Office of Archaeology. In recent years the MHT Office of Archaeology has conducted remote sensing projects at a number of colonial sites, as well as Native American sites with documentary or prior archaeological evidence suggestive of Native-English interactions. Among these are Barwick’s Ordinary (Caroline County), the Raven Site (Howard County), Billingsley (Prince George’s County), and Biggs Ford (Frederick County). This vital research will help the state, county partners, and dedicated members of the public to better manage these important historic resources.