April IS Maryland Archeology Month

By Charlie Hall, State Terrestrial Archeologist

Every April since 1993 Marylanders have celebrated Archeology Month. Officially proclaimed by the Governor as a celebration of the remarkable archeological discoveries that provide a tangible link to at least 12,000 years of human occupation here, Maryland Archeology Month has annually provided the public with opportunities to become involved and excited about archeology.  With a variety of events offered statewide every April, including exhibits, lectures, site tours, and occasions to participate as volunteer archeologists, Archeology Month elicits the gathering of interested Marylanders at various occasions to share their enthusiasm for scientific archeological discovery.

Did I say “gathering”?  Well, we seem to have a conflict this year between our desire to gather together and do some archeology, and our shared responsibility to observe an appropriate social distance in groups not to exceed 10, and now to stay at home, in an attempt to slow or stop the spread of COVID-19.  How can these two disparate callings be reconciled?  Like the heroes who are working hard to manufacture M95 masks and respirators, we have been working – albeit with perhaps not the exact same sense of urgency – on how Maryland Archeology Month might carry on in this time of careful isolation.  There is a will, and we have found a way.

This year’s Maryland Archeology Month theme – Partners in Pursuit of the Past:  50 Field Sessions in Maryland Archeology – lends itself to digital sharing.  The Field Sessions in Maryland Archeology are 11-day intensive archeological research investigations held every spring in partnership between the Archeological Society of Maryland, a State-wide organization of lay and professional archeologists, and the Maryland Historical Trust, a part of the Maryland Department of Planning and home to the State’s Office of Archeology.  While these two partners host the event every year, others are required to make the Field Sessions happen, including researchers/Principal Investigators, archeological supervisory staff, property owners, and volunteers from the public.  Each of these partners is essential.  Without any one of them the Field Sessions don’t happen.  Maryland Archeology Month 2020 is a chance to shine a grateful spotlight on all these necessary partners in the Field Session program.

2020 Maryland Archeology Month Poster

2020 Maryland Archeology Month Poster

Here is your first digital opportunity to engage with Maryland Archeology Month:  you can access downloadable versions of the Archeology Month 2020 poster and booklet online at the Archeological Society of Maryland’s website (https://marylandarcheology.org/, scroll down and click on the poster image to access the Maryland Archeology Month website).  The poster depicts a lively scene from the 2015 Field Session, held at the Biggs Ford Native American village site in Frederick County, and highlights the various kinds of partners present.  The booklet contains 40 pages that are jam-packed with information about the Field Session program, organizations doing or promoting archeology in Maryland, and volunteer opportunities in Maryland archeology.  This year the booklet features 13 essays written by Field Session partners, including three by researchers/Principal Investigators, two by archeological supervisory staff, four by officers of the Archeological Society of Maryland, one by a property owner, and four by volunteer archeologists.  These short, non-technical essays relay the authors’ recollections and reflections on their Field Session experiences.

Filling different partnership roles, the different individuals bring different life and professional experiences to the Field Sessions, and take different experiences from them.  As research endeavors, the Field Sessions must be under the direction of a qualified researcher with an anthropological interest in the site being studied who is responsible for designing the investigation and ensuring that it is properly carried out.  Researchers can come from universities, state and county agencies, and consultancies, and each meets strict professional standards.  Each site is owned by someone, and the property owner’s willingness to welcome a small army of sunburnt, dusty, and exuberant professional and volunteer archeologists on to their property is critical to each Field Session.  The sites of past Field Sessions have been owned by state agencies, county agencies, private individuals, and organizations.  While involving many sophisticated scientific techniques and instruments, archeology is at its core low tech and labor intensive.  It requires a lot of patient people wielding small hand excavating tools and carefully moving a lot of soil.  The labor pool powering the Field Sessions is the public.  In classic Tom Sawyer fashion, the public is enticed to pick up shovels and trowels and work for anywhere from a partial day to all 11 days excavating in the hot sun, often on their hands and knees.  Many volunteers take vacation time to participate in the Field Sessions.  They are the backbone of the Field Sessions, and they seem to really enjoy themselves.

With the first Field Session occurring in 1971, this year’s represents the 50th.  (Mark you calendars for May 22nd through June 1st and plan to join us at the Billingsly site in Prince George’s County.  Watch the Archeological Society of Maryland’s website for registration materials and updates.  We’re still crossing our fingers . . . )  The forty-nine previous Field Sessions have been held on 36 sites in 14 counties across the site. Twenty-five of the sites were Native American occupied (prehistoric), ten were historic aged, and one had both prehistoric and historic components.

Here is your second opportunity to connect digitally with Maryland Archeology Month:  Want to know more about the past Field Sessions?  Do you wonder where they occurred, or which were prehistoric and which historic?  Are you curious about the research conducted at each?  A team of talented professional archeologists have created a StoryMap of the 50 Field Sessions.  This map-based app is interactive, informative and entertaining.  Visit https://mdarchaeology.github.io/Annual-Field-Sessions/ or scan the QR code printed on the cover of the booklet and on the poster, or click the link on the Maryland Archeology Month website, to investigate the distribution of Field Session sites across the state, learn details of the archeology found on each, and see pictures from the past!

50 Field Sessions StoryMap

50 Field Sessions StoryMap

It is my hope that these digital experiences will connect you virtually to other Marylanders as you collectively, yet individually and at home, celebrate Maryland Archeology Month!  Several of the events planned for April will be rescheduled, and at them you will be able to pick up physical copies of the poster and booklet.  Watch the Maryland Archeology Month website for updated information.  I wish you an engaging, and healthy, Maryland Archeology Month!

 

The Journey Home

By Rebecca Morehouse, Curator of State Collections, Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab

In 1980, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funded a project to build townhouses in the block between what is now City Gate Lane and Dean Street in Annapolis. Excavation of the townhouse basements disturbed a portion of what was later identified as a 19th-century African American family cemetery. When archeologists at the Maryland Historical Trust heard of the discovery, they went to the site to rescue the human remains that had been exposed. They carefully mapped, photographed, and removed what turned out to be the partial remains of two individuals. In the event of this kind of inadvertent discovery, an archeologist’s priority is to identify what remains of the burials, document as much of the site as possible, and transfer any human remains to another location for protection. In the case of these two individuals, they were placed in the custody of MHT, and cared for at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab (MAC Lab) at Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum (JPPM), a unit of MHT.

Figure 1: Asbury United Methodist Church in Annapolis
Figure 1: Asbury United Methodist Church in Annapolis.

Little was known about these two individuals until research conducted by Janice Hayes-Williams in the early 2000s indicated their remains were likely removed from what had been the family cemetery of Smith Price. Price, formerly enslaved, came to Annapolis as a free man. He owned the property where an 1860s plat indicated his family cemetery was located, as well as the land where the Asbury United Methodist Church now stands less than a block away. Smith Price was a founding member of the African Meeting House in Annapolis, which eventually became the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1803, Asbury Methodist Episcopal Church in 1838, and then the Asbury United Methodist Church in 1968 (Figure 1).

While attending a meeting at the MAC Lab in April 2019, Janice Hayes-Williams asked me if the human remains from the Smith Price family cemetery were curated at the MAC Lab. When I told her they were, she asked if the remains could be returned to Annapolis and reburied there.  A flurry of correspondence soon followed, as MHT staff worked with the Office of the Attorney General to chart a course for the permanent transfer of the remains that would satisfy State regulations. 

The official request for transfer came from Asbury UMC in June 2019 and was quickly approved by the MHT Board of Trustees. The transfer took place on July 24, 2019 in a ceremony at Asbury UMC. In preparation for their trip to back to Annapolis, Janice Hayes-Williams wrapped the boxes which held the remains with Kente cloth and adorned them with sunflowers (Figure 2). I had the honor of assisting.

Figure 2: Boxes containing human remains from the Smith Price family cemetery are shown wrapped in Kente cloth. Photo credit: Janice Hayes-Williams
Figure 2: Boxes containing human remains from the Smith Price family cemetery are shown wrapped in Kente cloth. Photo credit: Janice Hayes-Williams

Once in the custody of the Asbury UMC, the church transferred the individuals to Dr. Julie Schablitsky, Chief Archaeologist at the Maryland State Highway Administration.  Dr. Schablitsky took the lead on coordinating the analysis of the remains, which included a detailed examination and inventory by Dr. Dana Kollmann, Forensic Anthropologist at Towson University, and facial reconstruction by forensic artist Detective Eve Grant (Figure 3). Dr. Schablitsky also arranged for DNA testing at DNA Labs International in Florida. Unfortunately, the extracted DNA was degraded and, while the scientists are still trying, they have been unable to match it to living descendants.

Figure 3: Conjectural drawing of the man whose remains were removed from the Smith Price family cemetery. Sketch by forensic artist Detective Eve Grant of the Baltimore County Police Department.
Figure 3: Conjectural drawing of the man whose remains were removed from the Smith Price family cemetery. Sketch by forensic artist Detective Eve Grant of the Baltimore County Police Department.

Analysis by Dr. Kollmann showed that the remains belonged to a man and a child of African ancestry. The man likely died sometime in his late forties or early fifties. Associated coffin nails dated to the late 18th to early 19th centuries. Though no personal artifacts were recovered with the skeletal remains, blue-green discoloration on the man’s left wrist indicates the presence of a copper alloy burial shroud pin, button, or cufflink. His skeleton showed evidence that he was muscular and would have participated in heavy physical labor. He had a minor injury to his left shin, which, while not resulting in a break, would have been painful. He also had arthritis in his right arm and shoulder, which would have also caused significant pain and hindered his movements. His teeth had  a well-defined pipe facet from carrying a tobacco pipe between his teeth on the right side of his mouth. The cause of the man’s death could not be determined.

The child, of unknown gender, likely died between the ages of 5 and 6 years. Copper alloy staining on the left temple suggests the child may have been wrapped in a burial shroud held in place with a copper alloy pin. The teeth show evidence of malnutrition or a significant illness, such as influenza. However, this did not contribute to the child’s death.

Figure 4: Procession from Asbury UMC to the St. Anne’s Cemetery for reburial. Photo credit: Janice Hayes-Williams
Figure 4: Procession from Asbury UMC to the St. Anne’s Cemetery for reburial. Photo credit: Janice Hayes-Williams

On November 1, 2019, Maryland’s Emancipation Day, following a community ceremony at Asbury UMC, these two individuals were laid to rest for a second time in St. Anne’s Cemetery in Annapolis (Figures 4 and 5).

While MHT does not encourage the excavation of human remains, there are times when burials are threatened and must be removed, as with the case of the Smith Price family cemetery. Today, unlike in 1980, immediate relocation or reburial of disturbed human remains is now the preferred course of action, rather than being placed in the care of the State. On the occasion that human remains do end up in MHT’s custody, they are placed in a specially designated area, known as an appropriate place of repose, apart from the State’s other collections. This area is only accessible by MHT staff and is not visible to the public.

I consider the care of these individuals a sacred responsibility and one of the most important duties I have as Curator. However, if I am given the opportunity to help facilitate the return and reburial of human remains in MHT’s custody, I am honored to do so. Being able to participate in the preparation of the human remains, as well as the transfer and reburial ceremonies, was an experience which I will not soon forget.

Figure 5: Smith Price family cemetery remains returned to the earth at St. Anne’s Cemetery in Annapolis. Photo credit: Janice Hayes-Williams
Figure 5: Smith Price family cemetery remains returned to the earth at St. Anne’s Cemetery in Annapolis. Photo credit: Janice Hayes-Williams

Welcome, Zachary Singer!

The Maryland Historical Trust is pleased to welcome Dr. Zachary Singer as Research Archeologist in the Office of Research, Survey, and Registration. Zac will primarily be responsible for maintaining the Maryland Archeological Synthesis Project, summarizing Phase II and III compliance archeology reports in MHT’s library. Zac will also participate in grants management, archeological fieldwork, and will conduct research on collections entrusted to MHT’s care.

Research Archeologist, Dr. Zachary Singer

Zac’s interest in Maryland archeology was first piqued as a student at Towson High School, when he interned with Dr. Bob Wall of Towson University, studying his Paleoindian assemblage from the Barton site. Zac went on to earn his B.A. at the University of Maryland, College Park and gained field experience under the direction of Dr. Stephen Brighton and Dr. David Gadsby. Zac took a hiatus from Maryland archeology to earn his M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Connecticut where he excavated and analyzed New England Paleoindian sites under the guidance of Dr. Kevin McBride, Dr. Jonathan Lothrop, Dr. Daniel Adler, and the late Dr. Brian Jones.

After receiving his doctorate, Zac returned to Maryland to teach and conduct research, once again, in the archeology of his home state. Prior to joining MHT, Zac taught and conducted research through a Visiting Assistant Professorship at Towson University, as an adjunct professor at Washington College, as a 2016 and 2017 Gloria S. King Research Fellow at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory, as a contractual archeologist for Anne Arundel County’s Cultural Resources Division, and as Public Programs Coordinator for the Lost Towns Project, Inc.

Zac’s major research interest is Maryland’s prehistoric occupations with a particular focus on studying the Paleoindian period to refine interpretations of Maryland’s earliest inhabitants. Zac is also keen on collections based research, analyzing (or re-analyzing) artifact collections generated by both professional and avocational archeologists in order to glean information about Maryland’s past.

Zac may be reached by telephone at 410-697-9544 or by email at zachary.singer@maryland.gov.

A Summer Exploring Maryland’s History by Land and Sea

A Summer Exploring Maryland’s History by Land and Sea

By Stephanie Soder, 2019 Summer Intern in Maryland Archeology

Having recently graduated with a Master’s degree in Maritime Studies (Archeology), I was excited when I was chosen as the Maryland Historical Trust’s summer intern. I grew up just over the Mason-Dixon border in Pennsylvania and spent about half of my life in Maryland, so I was happy to be back in the state I considered “home”. The MHT Archeology staff wasted no time in throwing me into the chaos of gearing up for the annual Tyler Bastian Field Session that was taking place at Billingsley House in Prince George’s County.

The Author examining a prehistoric pit feature exposed during the 2019 Field Session
(Drone imagery courtesy of Ryan Craun, M-NCPPC).

Though the Billingsley House dates to the 18th century, this 11-day field session focused on finding two 17th-century Native American villages. I was charged with keeping the field lab running smoothly and the site forms organized. Water buckets and toothbrushes came out every day for artifact washing, allowing volunteers to take a break from digging in the heat. Every tenth bucket coming from each unit was water screened through a ⅛” mesh, hoping to reveal small trade beads (and creating quite the mess). By the end of the session, 12 units had been opened, resulting in artifacts ranging from pre-colonial lithics and ceramics to nails, faunal remains, and fire-cracked rock. Thanks to the hard efforts of the lab volunteers, almost all of the artifacts were washed and weighed by the end of the last day.

The remaining time of my internship was split between a variety of projects. I was able to work on projects that met my interests, and though I love to be out in the field, I challenged myself by taking on tasks that I was not as familiar with: Section 106 review and compliance, artifact identification, and remote sensing.

A Late Archaic projectile point recovered at Billingsley (Photo by the author).

Compliance archeology focuses on ensuring that federal and state funded projects limit impacts to the historical integrity of sites around Maryland. Dixie Henry and Beth Cole shared their expectations for compliance reports and gave me federal and state standards for archeology and architectural studies to read. They then allowed to me to review some compliance reports and tag along on a consultation meeting with the National Park Service to mitigate impacts to historic sites while building their new C & O Canal Headquarters. The time I spent learning about compliance has reinforced my appreciation for the work that goes into protecting our historical resources.

My graduate research focused largely on Pacific Islander culture and modern conflict, so getting familiar with artifacts found throughout Maryland was a necessity. I spent much of the second half of my internship in the lab cleaning, identifying, and photographing artifacts from previously completed fieldwork in Janes Island State Park (Somerset County). I then began working on site forms and compiled a report that highlighted research on each type of artifact find. There’s no better way to learn how to complete a task than getting to do it first-hand, and I feel that my time working with the artifacts helped familiarize me with examples found around Maryland and the resources available for identification.

Most of my previous work involved excavation or evaluation with very little training in remote sensing. Under the tutelage of Matt McKnight and Charlie Hall, I learned how to run a magnetic susceptibility meter and a fluxgate gradiometer. Putting what I had learned to the test, we set out for a new site that may be associated with an ordinary dating from the origins of Caroline County. I assisted with using the gradiometer and practiced with the magnetic susceptibility meter. The collected data will help with future work on the site by the Caroline County Historical Society. Out on Janes Island, Troy Nowak put me to work completing a side-scan sonar and bathymetric survey in Maryland waters. With a steady hand and concentration, I learned to follow transect lines while driving a boat in order to collect data consistently. The rest of the week was spent surveying the shoreline and tracking how it has changed over time in order to evaluate potential impacts on historical sites.

The author collecting marine remote sensing data off of Janes Island (Photo by Troy Nowak).

My summer at MHT came to an end far too quickly, but it has been an extremely rewarding experience. It has helped prepare me for a career in Maryland, and I’d like to thank the entire staff at MHT for their guidance, patience, and for providing me this amazing opportunity.

Black Panther’ – History and Archaeology of a U-boat

Upcoming Lecture – 7:00 pm October 15, 2019

U-1105 ‘Black Panther’ – History and Archaeology of a U-boat

Speaker: Aaron Stephan Hamilton

Author of German Submarine U-1105 ‘Black Panther’ The Naval Archeology of a U-boat

Tickets are free, but each individual must register to guarantee seating. Register here:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/u-1105-black-panther-history-and-archaeology-of-a-u-boat-tickets-68283262075

U-1105 was the last German U-boat to cross the Atlantic. It departed England for Portsmouth, New Hampshire on 19 December 1945 under the command of U.S. Navy LCDR Hubert “Hugh” T. Murphy.  LCDR Murphy and a prize crew of 38 delivered U-1105 after a harrowing 14-day crossing.  They endured winter storms, heavy seas, and mechanical failures throughout their voyage without being briefed on the importance of their mission.  The crew speculated and “agreed about why it was so necessary to get this one back to the states.  .  .  the boat was built in 1943 and had snorkeling equipment for charging batteries while submerged.  .  . it was completely covered with rubber coating to help escape our sonar and their periscope and optical equipment [was] better in some ways than ours.  The batteries could go longer without charging and required less watering.”  (December 12, 1985 letter from William Ferguson who served on Murphy’s prize crew during U-1105’s Atlantic crossing).

Figure 1. US Navy LCDR Hubert T. Murphy receiving the Bronze Star
(Photo courtesy of Janet Murphy).

The specific combination of technologies on U-1105 attests to a dramatic shift in U-boat tactics in response to Allied victories during May 1943.  U-1105 was the only Type VIIC U-boat equipped with a snorkel, the rubber coating Alberich and the advanced hydrophone array GHG Balkon that conducted a wartime patrol.  It represents a critical evolutionary stage in the development of the modern submarine. 

Figure 2. U-1105 ‘Black Panther’ maneuvering in Holy Loch, Scotland in 1945.
(Photo courtesy of the Royal Navy Submarine Museum).

The Maryland Historical Trust is hosting a lecture on October 15, 2019 at 7:00 pm by Aaron S. Hamilton, author of German Submarine U-1105 ‘Black Panther’ The Naval Archeology of a U-boat, published June 2019.  It is a must-read for individuals intending to visit the U-1105 ‘Black Panther’ Historic Shipwreck Preserve or the exhibit at the Piney Point Lighthouse Museum.  Aaron is an academically trained historian and member of the Battle of the Atlantic Research and Expedition Group who has spent the past six years researching U-1105 as part of a broader study of the technical and tactical evolution of the U-boat in the last year of WWII.  

Figure 3. Aaron Stephan Hamilton at the U-1105 ‘Black Panther’ Historic Shipwreck Preserve.

Join MHT on October 15th to learn more about the history of U-1105 and how it ended up at the bottom of the Potomac River.  Aaron will also show a ten-minute film of U-1105 taken by the U.S. Navy in 1948 during salvage training. This film has never been seen by the public.

Follow the links below to learn about the U-1105 ‘Black Panther’ Historic Shipwreck Preserve and the Piney Point Lighthouse Museum:

https://mht.maryland.gov/archeology_U1105.shtml

https://www.stmarysmd.com/recreate/PPL/

The Search for Wighkawamecq: the 2019 Tyler Bastian Field Session in Maryland Archeology

By Matthew D. McKnight, Chief Archeologist

As Maryland Archeology Month draws to a close, I’d like to take this opportunity to invite you, the reader, to attend our Annual Field Session in Maryland Archeology which will be held jointly with the Archeological Society of Maryland (ASM) from Friday, May 24th until Monday, June 3rd.

Every year, dozens of volunteers from around the state converge on a site selected for its research potential and importance to the history or prehistory of the state. They will make significant contributions to a citizen science project and obtain training in archeological excavation methods. If you’ve ever had an interest in archeology, you should consider joining us. Your participation can range from as little as a few hours of work, to the entire 11-day field session.

Billingsley Point and vicinity as depicted on Augustine Herrman’s 1670 Map of the Chesapeake (published in 1673).

This year’s excavations will be held at Billingsley House near Upper Marlboro in Prince George’s County. Owned by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Billingsley is operated as a historic house museum by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), who have graciously agreed to host and to assist with the excavations and project logistics this year.

Though the house museum dates later (to the 18th century), the site is the core of a 700 acre tract that was patented to Major John Billingsley in 1662, “…for transportation of 14 servants in the year 1650”. Though it’s pretty clear from the archival record that Major Billingsley never actually lived on the property, a European-built structure is depicted on the parcel on a map of the Chesapeake published by Augustine Herrman in 1673 (and drafted much earlier). Whether or not this structure depicts an actual dwelling or is merely intended to symbolize surveyed and patented land is still an open question. What is not in question, is that the tract was inhabited.

MHT Office of Archeology magnetic susceptibility survey results from October 2018.

The Herrman map marks the presence of not one, but two 17th-century Indian villages on the Billingsley parcel: one named “Wighkawamecq” and the other, “Coppahan”. In addition, the Proceedings of the Maryland Assembly on May 23rd, 1674 make it clear that Billingsley purchased his 700 acres from the “Mattapany and Patuxon Indians”, at least some of whom, “…doe Continue upon the Land”. This statement, as well as Herrman’s map, strongly suggest that two indigenous groups were living on this land in the mid 17th century.

The 18th Century “Hollyday House” at Billinsgsley Point.

In the fall of 2018 and again in late winter 2019, MHT Office of Archeology staff carried out a magnetic susceptibility survey on some of the agricultural fields at the Billingsley property. It was known at the time that a number of 20th century artifact collectors had been active on the site, but MHT did not have a good handle on precisely where this collecting had taken place. It was thought that magnetic susceptibility testing might be able to “zero in” on the locations where archeological deposits had been identified in the past. The magnetic susceptibility of surface soils can be influenced by past human activity such as burning, digging, the introduction of organic matter, and the introduction of foreign stone or other raw materials. Prehistoric artifacts had been recovered from the site, and hearths from ancient cooking fires would be expected to influence the magnetizability of the soils on-site.

MHT Archeology staff excavating a single test unit at Billingsley to examine site stratigraphy.

I’m happy to report that the technique worked amazingly well! Ultimately, after three days in the field, MHT identified a roughly 1.3 acre anomaly of culturally modified soils at Billingsley. Furthermore, the location of this anomaly matches almost perfectly the location of the “W” in “Wighkawameck” on the 17th-century Augustine Herrman map. It isn’t surprising that historically documented tribes such as the Mattapany and Patuxent would find a location appealing for establishment of their village in the late 17th century, precisely where their ancestors had lived during prehistoric times. It’s a pattern that has been observed throughout the state…that certain locations persist in the memories of Native Peoples. Sometimes for millennia.

MHT Archeology staff excavating a single test unit at Billingsley to examine site stratigraphy

“X” rarely marks the spot in archeology, but in this case, a “W” may. With your help, as well as that of the ASM and M-NCPPC, we hope to obtain archeological evidence for a 17th– century Native American presence at the Billingsley site in Prince George’s County. We have 11 days within which to do it. Please join us.

For more information about the Tyler Bastian Field Session in Maryland Archeology and to register to participate please visit the link below.

https://marylandarcheology.org/Field_Session/2019FieldSessionRegistration.html

A Curated Coin from Calvert County (Guest Blog)

By Kirsti Uunila, RPA, Calvert County Historic Preservation Planner

For the past two summers, MHT archeologists have partnered with the Archeological Society of Maryland (ASM) and Calvert County to investigate the Calverton Site on the shore of Battle Creek to search for what remains of the seventeenth century town. Calverton, also known as Battle Town, was the first seat of Calvert County government. Established around 1668, it was abandoned sometime after the court was relocated to Prince Frederick in 1724. The town site has been in agriculture ever since. Battle Creek has eroded the Calverton Site with an estimated loss of more than 50 meters of shoreline. Using a plat of the town drawn in 1682 (see map), archeologists concluded that some of the town is still on land, including the first home of Michael Taney and other buildings.

A 17th-century plat of Calverton geo-rectified to modern satellite imagery.

An area near the Taney house is believed to have been a dependency or outbuilding related to the dwelling. It contained numerous artifacts from the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. One was a large wine-bottle fragment bearing a broken seal with the initial ‘M’. Michael Taney’s, perhaps? Several small features were excavated in the dependency, including an apparent line of postholes. Two of these postholes were situated approximately three feet apart, suggesting the presence of a door. The most notable artifact found was on the edge of one of these postholes. It is a James I silver shilling with a mint mark indicating it was made in 1604. Since the town was not established until sixty years after that, the coin had had a long journey and was likely to have been a treasured object. In “archeologist speak” it had been “curated” by its owner well beyond the date it was minted. Its placement in a posthole that may have held a doorpost suggests a deliberate act, possibly to bring good fortune to the building and its inhabitants.

Colonial bottle glass seal with an “M” mark, possibly for Michael Taney.

The artifacts and records of the second season are being analyzed now and we hope to learn more about the people who lived, worked, and traded in the Colonial port town. Calvert County proposes continuing work at the site and will use ground-penetrating radar (GPR) this spring to locate cellars, hearths, and other features that may be in imminent danger of erosion, and to investigate more of the site.

Curated 1604 James I silver shilling recovered from the base of a burned post at Calverton.