by Patricia Samford, Director of the Maryland Archaeological Conservation (MAC) Lab
Since the theme of Maryland Archeology Month 2021 is “The Archeology of Healing and Medicine,” I thought it would be a great time to revisit a rudimentary microscope called a “flea glass,” which I first studied in a February 2017 Curator’s Choice piece. The monthly Curator’s Choice series highlights significant or unusual artifacts from the Maryland Archaeological Conservation (MAC) Lab collections, and a 19th-century flea glass from the Southern Dispensary in Baltimore qualifies on both counts.
“The eye of a human being is a microscope, which makes the world seem bigger than it really is.” – Khalil Gibran (1883-1931)
Nineteenth-century physicians often required more than just the naked eye to assist them in offering quality health care to their patients. Using magnifying devices, like this simple microscope, also called a flea glass, allowed them to gain a better view of wounds or conduct routine visual examinations of ears, eyes, and throats.
Invented in the 1500s, flea glasses were used primarily for studying insects and other small life forms rather than for medical purposes—hence the name. A small, convex lens held nearest to the eye and a larger, flat lens at the opposite end of a short metal tube allowed for magnification ranges of 6x to 10x.
The lenses and iron fittings of a flea glass or similar simple microscope were recovered from a circa 1850-1870 privy excavated at the Federal Reserve site (18BC27) in Baltimore. This magnifying instrument may have been originally mounted on a stand. A medical use for this scientific instrument was assumed because the privy fill also contained a number of other artifacts relating to medical care, including a mortar and pestle, a salve jar, a pill tile, a leech jar, a number of medicine bottles, and a possible stethoscope.
Documentary records indicate that the privy was located near the Southern Dispensary, a branch of the Baltimore General Dispensary. A dispensary supplied free medicine and health care for citizens who could not otherwise afford medical services. The Southern Dispensary, funded by charitable donations and a small appropriation from the city, was incorporated in 1847 and remained in operation until at least 1889 (Woods 1847; Register 1890). The dispensary offered both clinic and in-home health care (Polk 1888).
With large populations living in close proximity, it was critical for cities to provide medical services. At various times during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, infectious diseases, including tuberculosis, cholera, yellow fever and smallpox, struck Baltimore (Mdmedicine 2017). Clinics like the Southern Dispensary played key roles in treating infected individuals and preventing widespread epidemics.
Bradbury, S. 1968 The Microscope Past and Present. Pergamon International Popular Science Series. Pergamon Press, Ltd., Oxford.
by Zachary Singer, MHT Research Archaeologist, and the Staff of Applied Archaeology and History Associates, Inc.
In addition to celebrating Maryland Archeology Month in April, Governor Larry Hogan proclaimed April 2021 as the first Maryland Flood Awareness Month. Although, April 2021 is the first official concurrent observance, 2017’s Archeology Month – At The Water’s Edge: Our Past on the Brink addressed the effects of flood hazards on archaeological sites. In the 2017 Archeology Month Booklet, Jason Tyler of Applied Archaeology and History Associates, Inc. (AAHA) contributed an essay entitled “A Return to Calverton, or What’s Left of It”. In the essay, Jason described the results of a 2015 survey to document archaeological resources along the banks of Battle Creek in Calvert County and highlighted the impacts of shoreline erosion on the late 17th-century Calverton site (18CV22). Calverton was laid out in 1668 and served as the seat of government within Calvert County from 1668-1725. Jason concluded the chapter by advocating to protect the site from erosion and flood hazards and also to document the site through archaeology to learn about the threatened cultural resources at Calverton.
Following Jason’s recommendation, the 2017 and 2018 Tyler Bastian Field Sessions with the Archeological Society of Maryland were held at the Calverton site to investigate the site before storm-surge flooding and the wind-driven waters of Battle Creek further eroded what evidence remained of the town. The field sessions focused on ground-truthing anomalies identified during a magnetic susceptibility survey by the MHT Office of Archaeology. The Field Session investigations identified a part of the Colonial town that had not entirely washed into Battle Creek, including intact sub-plowzone cultural horizons and features. In the summer of 2020, AAHA conducted supplemental archaeological investigations at Calverton to continue documenting those portions of the site at heightened risk from shoreline erosion and flooding caused by sea level rise. The 2020 work was supported by the Calvert County Government and a grant from the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority.
Prior to AAHA’s 2020 field investigations, the MHT Office of Archaeology conducted a ground penetrating radar (GPR) survey within 10 meters of the eroding bank overhanging Battle Creek to identify anomalies in the area of the site most at risk to further loss from wind and water action. The GPR essentially uses a 350MHz (megahertz) antenna to send radio pulses into the ground which bounce off of subsurface anomalies and return to the antenna. Through the use of special software, the data collected by the GPR operator can be used to create a detailed 3 dimensional model (called a 3D time slice) that reveals both the horizontal and vertical relationships amongst radar anomalies including potential cultural features (trash pits, cellars, privies), potential modern disturbances, and natural tree root systems.
MHT archaeologists identified seven likely anthropogenic features via examination of the radar time slices. There were two large rectilinear anomalies in the eastern portion of the survey area. A deep, roughly circular anomaly near the center of the survey area was interpreted as a possible well. To the west of the possible well was an irregular anomaly that corresponded with a magnetic aberration identified during a 2019 gradiometer survey. To the east of the possible well was another amorphous anomaly. One trench-like linear anomaly was identified running roughly north-south in the western portion of the survey area. Additionally, one irregularly-shaped anomaly appeared in the southwest corner of the survey area and roughly corresponded to the location of a feature identified in 2017: a cluster of artifacts partly eroding from the bank of Battle Creek. In addition, the rectangular footprint of a test unit from previous excavations was identified, confirming the projection of these anomalies in real space. All seven potential cultural features were recommended for ground-truthing during AAHA’s 2020 archaeological fieldwork.
In total, AAHA excavated eight Test Units during the 2020 fieldwork to assess the form and function of the GPR anomalies. The excavations resulted in the identification of ten cultural features and the recovery of 3,369 artifacts mostly dating from the late 17th and early 18th century including tobacco pipes, a Charles I sixpence coin (1639-1645), and sherds of tin glazed earthenware. Of the ten features identified and excavated by AAHA in 2020, seven are related to the occupation of Calverton most likely from the late seventeenth century and the first quarter of the eighteenth century. The largest and most artifact-dense features related to the colonial occupation of Calverton were identified in the central portion of the study area and represent a posthole/mold (Feature 15/22), a small cellar (Feature 14 – the anomaly originally thought to be a possible well), and a possible trash pit (Features 16 and 17). Also identified was a small trench or ditch feature for what was probably once a paling fence in the western portion of the study area (Feature 19).
The 2020 archaeological investigation at Calverton provided additional data crucial to understanding the colonial occupation of the town in the portions of the site most vulnerable to flooding and erosion. Most significantly, it identified a previously unknown cellar (Feature 14) and an associated post hole/mold (Feature 15/22) both of which likely reflect the location of a colonial structure. While the small window into this structure excavated to-date has allowed some preliminary conclusions to be drawn, additional excavations could further reveal the size, layout, and function of the former building. Additional excavation and GPR survey in the vicinity of the paling trench identified during the 2020 investigation (Feature 19) could also provide valuable data on lot divisions in Calverton and colonial towns as a whole.
Another important aspect of the 2020 project was to monitor the shoreline at Calverton to continue assessing the risk of the site to the destructive power of wind and water action along Battle Creek, which remains an imminent threat to the archaeological resources at the site. MHT map projections show that the town’s important public buildings, including the courthouse and chapel, have already been lost to Battle Creek. AAHA’s comparison of the 2020 location of the Battle Creek bank to the location recorded by a 2017 Calvert County LiDAR survey shows shoreline loss ranging from 0.0313 meters to 3.204 meters, with an average of 1.333 meters of loss over two years, or 60- 70 centimeters per year. Most alarmingly, seven of the 28 points taken for the analysis (25% of the total) show shoreline loss in excess of 2 meters and these points occurred over the entire length of the surveyed shoreline. At this rate, the late 17th/early 18th-century cellar feature (Feature 14) will be lost to erosion by 2028 without intervention. With climate change comes increasing numbers of catastrophic storms. Tidal surges during such storm events can wreak havoc on the shoreline, severely undercutting the bank at Calverton.
This reinforces the urgent need for additional archaeology at Calverton before the resource is entirely lost. Maryland Flood Awareness Month aligning with Maryland Archeology Month provides the perfect opportunity to discuss the impacts of flooding on archaeological resources. To learn more about planning efforts to protect archaeological sites from the impacts of flood hazards, please see the MHT’s guide for Planning for Maryland’s Flood-Prone Archeological Resources.
A routine part of my job, and part of the job for most of the archaeologists at the Maryland Historical Trust, is fielding the occasional inquiry from an interested member of the public about an artifact (or possible artifact) that they’ve found on their farm, in their back yard, or while out on a hike. These interactions usually start with an email or phone call to our office from the interested party. That exchange leads invariably to a request from one of us for a photo. The photo often comes back with nothing for scale, making it hard for us to interpret, and requires several follow-up emails. The photos may elicit more curiosity and a request for a map of the find location from MHT (something the caller may or may not be able to provide). The process involves a lot of back-and-forth and we thought, “There has to be an easier way!”
Today, I’m pleased to share that we have one! Several months ago, my colleague, Dr. Zac Singer and I began discussing ways to develop a smartphone app that could streamline the process of reporting unanticipated artifact discoveries in the field. To be clear, this app is not meant to replace completion of our standard Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties (MIHP) Archaeological Site Form for reporting newly discovered sites. Rather, we envisioned it as a supplemental tool, not meant for sites, but for individual artifact finds. This tool could be used by professional archaeologists for reporting isolated finds, but what we really wanted was something that could be used by an ASM member, a property owner, a metal detectorist, an arrowhead collector, or even just a hiker who found something interesting on their trek.
While I certainly have my qualms about some of these activities and the damage that can be caused to archaeological sites when they are done in an irresponsible or uncontrolled manner (I’ll be speaking in a Maryland Archeology Month webinar on the topic of “relic hunting” later this month), there may be instances where responsible admirers of the material culture record wish to record and report such finds to the state. MHT is the “home” of the MIHP, which includes nearly 14,000 archaeological sites and over 43,000 historic and architectural resources. For us (and by “us” I mean the collective body of Maryland’s residents) to learn about our shared history and cultural heritage, we need to have an accurate record of not just the known sites, but also isolated finds. These are often the first clues that lead to the discovery of new sites. And since it’s not just professional archaeologists that wander the fields and forests, hobbyists, hikers, beachcombers, and others needed a tool that would allow them to be a part of this discovery and documentation project. We also thought such a tool might be useful for “citizen scientists” to conduct coastal surveys for cultural resources after major storm and flooding events. After all, April is not just Maryland Archeology Month, it’s also Maryland Flood Awareness Month!
To that end, today we are releasing mdFIND, a crowdsourcing app that allows any member of the public to record and photograph unanticipated artifact discoveries in the field, and report those findings to the MHT Office of Archaeology. The app is built on ESRI’s Survey123 technology. Though the app presents you with a sign-in screen in case you have an ESRI account, no account is necessary, and you can click to simply continue without signing in. You can download the app for free at https://arcg.is/1PnOL10 or by scanning the QR code in the handy mdFIND flyer available at https://mht.maryland.gov/documents/PDF/research/mdFIND.pdf. The app will even work directly from a web browser with no download needed: just follow the simple prompts to report your find to MHT.
The app allows you to upload or capture up to five images of the object(s), report the location using your phone’s GPS, specify the broad artifact type or the diagnostic artifact name (if you know it), and report your name and contact info (if you wish) for any follow-up. Easy-to-use drop-down menus and links to external webpages (such as JPPM’s Diagnostic Artifacts Page) make filling out the form a breeze. If you use the app (as opposed to the web browser), mdFIND will even allow you to keep a record of your own personal submissions to the database on your phone (within the app). You can edit these previous finds and resubmit them later if new information comes to light.
We hope you find this new tool as useful as we do. Getting out into the warmer weather and recording some exciting new discoveries seems to me like a great way to spend some of Maryland Archeology Month. How about you?
When the Maryland Archeology Month Committee “met” (and we all know what it means to “meet” these days!) this past Fall our most important piece of business was to select the theme for the 2021 celebration. While this is a bit routine – choosing the theme is always the most important item on the agenda at our kick-off meeting – there was a difference this year. Try as I might to generate some debate (we had many excellent candidates), there really was no question that the Maryland Archeology Month theme for 2021 would echo the principal theme of these times: the worldwide effort to overcome COVID-19. The Committee was clear, however, that the theme should reflect the hopeful and positive aspects of the current stage of the pandemic. We are currently vaccinating over 3,000,000 people every day in the US, and are within weeks of the time when everyone will be eligible to receive a vaccination. This is indeed hopeful and positive. At this rate Maryland Archeology Month 2022 may mark the return to the usual menu of in-person public-engaging events including lectures, workshops, public excavations, open labs, and more.
That was no typo. I meant 2022. This year will mark the second COVID-19 affected Maryland Archeology Month (MAM). The virus hit with a vengeance last March just as we were preparing to celebrate. We were all reeling from the changes the response to the state of emergency meant in our day-to-day lives, and for MAM event sponsors this meant cancelations. Yet we persevered! Governor Hogan declared that April 2020 was Archeology Month in Maryland. The mailing went out as usual. Within the confines of the restrictions that were being put into effect, efforts were made to mark the celebration. Several blogs and video lectures were posted on the internet, and a web-based storymap was launched.
This year we have the added benefit of being able to plan with the pandemic as the controlling factor. We know that most in-person events will not be possible. As a result, we have planned many more virtual events. Below is a sampling of events you can attend without leaving the comfort – and safety – of your home. Note that information regarding these and other events, as well as links to the host organization’s website, can be found on the Maryland Archeology Month website at www.marylandarcheologymonth.org. Visit this website often as the list of events will no-doubt grow!
Digging History: Screening with Q&A: Archaeological Discoveries at the Hagerstown Jonathan Street Cabin. This virtual event will stream live from 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM on Tuesday April 6th. Hosted by Preservation Maryland with the Maryland Department of Transportation, Maryland Public Television, and the Western Maryland Community Development Corporation, this free event will feature a 5 minute mini-documentary featuring the archaeological investigation of the Jonathan Street Cabin in the heart of an African American neighborhood in Hagerstown. Archaeologists will answer questions from the audience following the mini-documentary screening. Visit https://www.preservationmaryland.org/ and look for Upcoming Events to register.
How Do I Get a Job in Archaeology These Days? If you are looking to get a job as an archaeologist then this webinar, hosted by the Council for Maryland Archeology and the University of Maryland is for you! Join host Jessica Brannnock and a panel of employed archeologists on Thursday April 8th from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM to learn how you too can get the job you want! Visit https://cfma-md.com/ and click on Announcements for information and to register.
Maryland Archeology Month: Rockville Students Excavate the Riggs House. Join this free Zoom lecture at 12:00 PM Thursday April 15th . Join the Peerless Rockville Historic Preservation, Ltd., and retired Richard Montgomery High School teacher and avocational archaeologist Bob Hines as they discuss the four seasons of archaeological investigations at the home site of one of Montgomery County’s most influential families. Visit the Peerless Rockville website (https://www.peerlessrockville.org/) and click on Events to register.
Finding Common Ground: Can Relic Hunters and Archeologists Work Together? Are metal detectorists and archaeologists the oil and water of the search for the material past? Is there a way the two can coexist and perhaps even benefit each other? Join a diverse panel of experts on Thursday April 15th at 1:00 PM for this free webinar, hosted by Preservation Maryland (https://www.preservationmaryland.org/, look for Upcoming Events).
Unearthing St. Mary’s Fort, the Founding Site of the Maryland Colony. Found it! If you follow the news you know about this national headline story. Funded by an MHT Historic Preservation Non-Capital Grant, archaeologists at Historic St. Mary’s City found the first fort built by the English colonists who settled Maryland in 1634. Learn about this historic discovery from the Director of Research and Collections Dr. Travis Parno between 7:00 PM and 8:00 PM on Thursday April 15th (visit https://www.hsmcdigshistory.org/events/ and click on Visit Us, then on Events to learn more about this YouTube event).
The Archeology of Healing and Medicine. Three authors of essays published in this year’s Archeology Month booklet will discuss their topics in a free webinar hosted by the Council for Maryland Archeology and the Maryland Historical Trust on Thursday April 22nd between 2:00 PM and 3:00 PM. Visit https://cfma-md.com/ and click on Announcements for information and to register. In addition to these live streaming events, the Council for Maryland Archeology and the Maryland Historical Trust will be posting short video interviews with each of the eight authors of the essays published in this year’s Archeology Month booklet on the Maryland Historical Trust’s YouTube channel. These video interviews will be available on demand this month (and beyond!)
You can expect additional written blogs and other online content as well. You’ll want to visit the Maryland Archeology Month website (www.marylandarcheologymonth.org) often as new content will be developed and links will be posted throughout the month. This website is also your source for this year’s Maryland Archeology Month poster and booklet, both of which can be downloaded there. Other content, including a listing of year-round volunteer opportunities, is available from this website, and will be updated often throughout the year. Cross listing of events on the hosts’ websites, as well as on the website of the Archeological Society of Maryland (www.marylandarcheology.org) will help to spread the word as widely as possible.
The Maryland Historical Trust’s Office of Archaeology is delighted to participate in the celebration of Preservation Month by highlighting the Ice Age inhabitants of Maryland, which archaeologists refer to as Paleoindians. Researchers can recognize Paleoindians in the archaeological record by the distinctive types of stone projectile points they made, which are typically lanceolate in shape and usually fluted (i.e. thinned from the base to create a channel scar). The re-established Maryland Fluted Point Survey is generating data to learn more about the lifeways of the Paleoindians who lived in Maryland between 13,000 and 10,000 years ago.
In 1979, as part of the Maryland Fluted Point Survey, Lois Brown reported one crystal quartz fluted point from the Nolands Ferry Site and one crystal quartz fluted point from the Katcef Site.
Subsequently, Dr. Darrin Lowery has shared information on the fluted points from the Paw Paw Cove Site with the Maryland Fluted Point Survey.
The re-established Maryland Fluted Point survey has recently recorded a second fluted point from the Katcef Site.
The two fluted points from the Katcef Site (both the crystal quartz point and the newly recorded orthoquartzite one) were found by Robert Ogle, a professional surveyor and avocational archaeologist who spent over 50 years collecting artifacts from central and southern Maryland and Virginia. In 2009, Bob Ogle donated his artifact collection to Anne Arundel County’s Cultural Resources Division. Through a grant from the MHT’s FY 2020 Historic Preservation Non-Capital Grant Program, Anne Arundel County’s Cultural Resources Division is rehousing, enhancing, and studying Ogle’s collection. As part of their grant project, Anne Arundel County’s Cultural Resources Division has organized public workshops to assist in sorting and rehousing the Ogle materials. During a recent workshop, the second fluted point from Katcef was discovered in Ogle’s collection.
The newly discovered fluted point from Katcef is a mid-section fragment, which is identified as a fluted point based on the distal terminations of the flutes present on both faces. The raw material of the fluted point is a large grained orthoquartzite, a preferred toolstone during the Paleoindian period. Paleoindians likely procured the stone material from Maryland’s coastal plain at quarry localities exposed along an ancient paleochannel of the Susquehanna River, which was created due to the lower sea-levels caused by glaciation during the terminal Pleistocene (Lowery and Wagner 2018). Due to deglaciation, sea-level rise, and sediment infilling over the past 13,000 years, the Susquehanna paleochannel and associated quarry localities are now inundated by the Chesapeake Bay. Systematic test excavations at the Katcef site in 1989 and 1990 identified stratified archaeological deposits, which suggests that there is the potential for deeply buried Paleoindian activity areas to be present at the site. Future research aimed at locating and carefully investigating stratified areas of Katcef to document buried Paleoindian materials may yield valuable information about the early inhabitants of Maryland, perhaps including the recovery of archaeological features like hearths that could provide radiocarbon datable materials and evidence for Paleoindian diet in Maryland.
By Kelly Palich, Howard County Recreation and Parks, Upper Patuxent Archaeology Group
Located north of the Fall Line, the Upper Patuxent River valley is located within the Piedmont Plateau, an area characterized by rolling hills and many rivers and their tributaries. During early colonial settlement, this area was considered “barren”, or without timber, thought to be caused by the common Native American practice of burning large areas to encourage use by wild game (Mayre 1955). As a result, this region was believed unfertile and often described as “remote and not likely to be settled in sometime.” (Mayre 1921: 128).
As arable land became less available throughout the tidal region, and more settlers immigrated to Maryland, tobacco plantations began to appear north of the Fall line as early as 1720. Over the past year, archaeologists and volunteers with the Upper Patuxent Archaeology Group (UPAG), and staff from the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) have investigated the Raven Site (18HO252). Normally inundated by the waters of the Patuxent River backed up behind Brighton Dam, the Raven Site represents one of the earliest colonial tobacco plantations documented archaeologically in Howard County. The goal of our investigation was to relocate a previously identified subfloor pit feature, and attempt to locate a purported early 18th century plantation house and outbuildings while waters in WSSC’s Triadelphia Reservoir were in retreat due to scheduled dam maintenance.
The Raven Site was initially identified in 2002 by archaeologists Wayne Clark and Paul Inashima, while surveying the area for Native American resources (2003). During their survey, they observed fragments of Rhenish Blue and Gray and Brown Salt-glazed Stoneware, and a fragment of a 17th-century Bellarmine Jug (these artifacts were not collected and could not be relocated in subsequent investigations). It was later speculated that this area might have been the location of a late 17th- to early 18th-century ranger station, which served to protect plantations on Maryland’s frontier. The site was recorded, but no further work was conducted.
During a period of historically low water levels in 2006, archaeologists and volunteers from The Lost Towns Projects, Inc. conducted a three-day salvage investigation, including a controlled surface collection and non-ferrous metal detecting survey, to document this site and protect it from the immediate threat of looting. Archaeologists identified a core 200 X 200 foot area consisting of a high concentration of artifacts, as well as a possible subfloor pit feature. The investigation also entailed archival research on the location of the site. What they found proved that the area was in fact not a 17th-century ranger station, but an early-mid 18th-century tobacco plantation, one of the earliest settled in the Piedmont region of Anne Arundel County (Howard County was not established until 1850 – present day Howard County was the western hinterland frontier of Anne Arundel).
In 1732, Thomas Hutchcraft, planter, received a 175-acre patent, “Hutchcraft’s Fortune”. Thomas Hutchcraft, born in Surrey, England in 1696, immigrated to the colonies with his wife Hannah and established his plantation after his initial land purchase. In 1748, he purchased a second 302-acre patent, “Victory” adjoining his “Fortune” land. He eventually sold off land from his plantation, selling 50 acres of “Victory” to Robert Wright in 1756, 415 acres and three enslaved laborers to Phillip Hammond, and 54 acres of “Fortune” to William Ray Junior in 1764. Prior to his death in 1770, he sold the remaining 361 acres of his land holdings to Benjamin Purnell, including the land that contained his house site.
We have recently acquired Hutchcraft’s probate inventory which lists his belongings at time of death. His estate, valued at 315 pounds, placed him in the middling socioeconomic bracket. Upon his death, he had six enslaved laborers and four white servants in his employ (minus the three enslaved persons he sold to Phillip Hammond in 1756). He owned much livestock, including a steer, cows, hogs, sheep, and horses. Perhaps Hutchcraft was one of the earlier farmers to diversify his crops, for he is listed as having wheats, oat, and corn aside from Tobacco crop. He is also listed as having a hand mill and two spinning wheels, which suggested other means of income within the household. Records such as these are extremely valuable for archaeologists when analyzing material culture from the field!
During the 2006 investigations, The Lost Towns crew recovered 1,120 artifacts, most of which dated between 1700-1780, and represented a middling tobacco plantation. Artifacts recovered included a variety of ceramics, pewter, brick and window glass suggesting at least some level of wealth (see the slideshow below). Given the general size of the plantation acreage, and the fact that Hutchcraft owned several enslaved laborers, this again supports his status as a middling planter of the early to mid-18th century.
The 2006 investigation was able to determine a relative date for the site and locate (but not fully excavate) one cultural feature (Feature 1). An analysis of artifact distribution allowed archaeologists to interpret the possible location of the original structure. Due to severe soil deflation, further work was not deemed critical, but further research on the feature was recommended to fully understand the history of site occupation.
The 2019-2020 season saw another period of dam repair and draught and another round of historically low water levels. The Upper Patuxent Archaeology Group was contacted by WSSC staff, who were interested in further research on the Raven Site. Our initial goal was to continue to document surface distribution, conduct a non-discriminating metal detecting survey (to locate nail patterning or “nail clouds” for structure identification), and relocate the feature identified by the Lost Towns Crew in 2006. We aimed to conduct further excavations that would interpret Feature 1 and help determine whether or not the Hutchcraft home site was truly located.
During the initial 2019 round of surface collection, we were able to document and retrieve at least 2,000 additional artifacts (number pending lab processing), as well as relocate Feature 1. Metal Detecting also identified nail clouds in an area outside of the original 200 X 200 foot survey grid, identifying the potential location of buildings associated with the Hutchcraft Plantation.
Based on our surface findings, a larger grid was established (400 X 400 foot square), encompassing the original 200 X 200 ft area as well as additional locations of interest exposed in 2019. After several attempts at relocating the original grid datum, we were able to pinpoint the area where the feature was most likely located and four 10 X 10 foot units were placed. Luckily, since the soils were heavily deflated due to water action beneath Triadelphia Reservoir, it did not take long to strip the very thin layer of silt and expose Feature 1.
Given the size of the feature (an irregularly-shaped pit measuring at least 8 X 10 feet) and the presence of daub and a lot of burnt and butchered bones, a quick field interpretation identified this feature not as a sub floor pit in a house, but a clay borrow pit later filled in over time with trash and butchering waste. A clay borrow pit, archaeologically speaking, is a hole or pit that was intentionally dug to extract natural clays for the making of brick or daub for construction. Other artifacts, including sleeve cufflinks, tobacco pipes, ceramics, and horse hardware were recovered. The variety of artifacts further supports a later trash deposit.
While a great quantity of hand wrought nails were recovered from Feature 1, little architectural evidence was documented. During the initial controlled surface survey and metal detecting, however, another area, outside of the original 200 X 200 foot grid, yielded a great quantity of window glass and a few clusters of nails, suggesting the presence of a decent-sized structure. The concentration of nails identified during metal detecting piqued our interest and we reached out to Matt McKnight, Chief Archaeologist at MHT, to seek his assistance with remote sensing. Our hope (with dam repairs complete and the waters in the reservoir rising) was that remote sensing could help us further identify buried features in a timely manner.
With the help of Matt, Zac Singer and Troy Nowak of MHT, we were able to survey a 50 meter (north-south) by 40 meter (east-west) area at the eastern edge of our survey area. Data recovered using a Fluxgate Gradiometer and a Ground-Penetrating Radar (GPR) were combined and mapped along with some of the UPAG nail cloud and artifact data. While most areas within our original 400 X 400 foot block did not present anything substantial, the southeastern portion of the remote sensing area, remarkably close to the current waterline, presented interesting data!
The gradiometer results suggested that a number of anomalies were situated in the eastern and southeastern portions of the remote sensing survey area. But it was the GPR that really revealed what was present in those areas. Technology is amazing! The MHT crew was able to detect a roughly 45 x 80 foot anomaly, a probable foundation with a possible porch abutment on the northwest side of the house (facing the original river channel). The short axis of this structural anomaly appears to fit perfectly in-between the two concentrations of architectural artifacts as sketched by field crew (the two blue polygons in the image below). This could possibly correspond to the front and back entrances of the house! Naturally, as any archaeological project goes – you always find the most exciting piece of information on the last day possible and thanks to rising waters and the global pandemic that has kept us all home bound, we haven’t had the chance to get back out to do more investigating!
We are in the process of cataloging and analyzing all the data thus far collected and hope to revisit the site as soon as we can! As of now, this is the earliest and northern-most documented middling tobacco plantation on the Patuxent River, and we hope to learn a lot through further investigations. Much of the “official” colonial history of Howard County begins with the Ellicott brothers. Hopefully, this site will shed new light into the period of colonial settlement that preceded them. At a time in Howard County history where many farmers were switching from Tobacco as cash crop to a more diversified economy, it will be interesting to see how these changes play out archaeologically!
If you are interested in volunteering with this project or have any information to share regarding early 18th century plantation archaeology in the Piedmont, please contact Kelly Palich at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clark, Wayne E., and Paul Inashima 2003 Archaeological Investigations within the Duckett and Triadelphia Reservoirs – Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. On file at the Maryland Historical Trust, Crownsville, Maryland.
Mayre, William B. 1921 The Baltimore County “Garrison” and the Old Garrison Roads. Maryland Historical Magazine 16(2).
1955 The Great Maryland Barrens: I. Maryland Historical Magazine 50(1-3).
Schiszik, Lauren and Al Luckenbach 2006 A Controlled Surface Collection and Metal Detector Survey of the Raven Site (18HO252) at Tridelphia Reservoir, Howard County, Maryland. Prepared for Washington Suburban Sanitation Commission. Anne Arundel County Trust for Preservation. On file at the Maryland Historical Trust, Crownsville, Maryland.