Ground Truth: Recent Investigations of Ground Penetrating Radar Anomalies by the MHT Archaeological Research Program

By Dr. Zachary Singer (MHT Research Archaeologist)

The theme for Maryland Archeology Month 2022 is “The Future of Studying the Past: Innovative Technologies in Maryland Archeology”. One suite of innovative technologies that is being highlighted is remote sensing: methods which allow archaeologists to detect cultural resources buried beneath the ground surface. Remote sensing technologies have transformed how archaeologists study the past. Today, with the aid of high precision GPS receivers and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping software, the coordinates of potential archaeological resources can be precisely located via remote sensing, recorded and plotted in GIS, and then surgically examined through excavations pinpointed to their exact locations.

Over the years, the MHT Office of Archaeology had dabbled with these technologies, carrying out some limited survey with magnetic susceptibility technologies or partnering with others for such work. Beginning in 2019, MHT Chief Archaeologist, Matt McKnight, began a push to acquire additional equipment with which to undertake a more rigourous terrestrial remote sensing research program. The remote sensing technologies deployed by our office include a magnetic susceptibility meter (MagSusc), a fluxgate gradiometer, and a ground penetrating radar (GPR) system. We also utilize a high-precision GPS system capable of pinpointing a location on the Earth’s Surface accurate to within 7 millimeters (or about 1/4 inch).

MHT archaeologists have assisted with remote sensing surveys on archaeological sites throughout Maryland and identified many intriguing anomalies suggestive of archaeological features. However, as is always the case with remote sensing data, these potential features are just that: potential features. Without archaeological ground truthing through excavation it is not possible to conclude with absolute certainty what the various anomalies identified via remote sensing represent. Fortunately, our office has collaborated with many members of the Maryland archaeology community to ground truth (or physically excavate) some of the intriguing anomalies identified via our remote sensing surveys to determine their forms, functions, and ages. Below, we present a sampling of some of these exciting ground truthing results.

Barwick’s Ordinary (Caroline County)

MHT archaeologists carried out a geophysical remote sensing survey at the Barwick’s Ordinary Site on the Choptank River in Caroline County during the summers of 2019 and 2020 to examine a field where the owners of the property had encountered colonial artifacts during a prior landscaping project. The primary objectives of remote sensing at the site were to obtain detailed imaging of the subsurface features believed to be yielding the artifacts recovered on the property. Magnetic susceptibility, gradiometry, and GPR surveys on the property revealed several anomalies suggestive of buried architectural elements.

Annotated results of the MagSusc, Gradiometer, and GPR remote sensing surveys at Barwick’s
Ordinary.

In the fall of 2020, with assistance from ASM volunteers, locals, and Professor Julie Markin of Washington College, a few small test units were excavated to ground truth the anomalies at Barwick’s. The results confirm that the site contains well-preserved, artifact rich, mid-late 18th century archaeological features. Come participate in additional ground truthing excavations this summer at the Annual Tyler Bastian Field Session, which will take place at Barwick’s Ordinary from May 20-30, 2022.

Dr. Matt McKnight ground truthing a GPR anomaly, which was revealed to be the corner of a likely 18th-century privy at the Barwick’s Ordinary site.

Calverton (Calvert County)

In the summer of 2020, MHT archaeologists conducted a ground penetrating radar survey at the 17th-century Calverton Site in Calvert County in an area located within 10 meters of the eroding edge of Battle Creek. The creek is slowly destroying the site and the goal of the GPR survey was to identify anomalies in the portion of the site most at risk of loss from shoreline erosion. The GPR survey would later be investigated via ground truthing using traditional archaeological methods.

Annotated results of the GPR remote sensing survey at Calverton, highlighting the location of a shaft anomaly, which ground truthing determined to be a 17th-century
cellar (CLICK IMAGE TO EXPAND).

Seven likely anthropogenic features were identified in the GPR survey at Calverton. Eight test units were excavated by Applied Archaeology and History Associates during the summer of 2020 to assess these GPR anomalies. The excavations resulted in the identification of ten cultural features, which yielded late 17th- and early 18th-century artifacts including tobacco pipes, a Charles I sixpence coin (1639-1645), and sherds of tin-glazed earthenware. The largest and most artifact-dense feature related to the colonial occupation of Calverton was an in-filled cellar.

Photo of the 17th century cellar feature after it was bisected to ground truth the GPR
anomaly.

Maiden’s Choice (Washington County)

In the spring of 2021, MHT conducted a GPR survey at the Maiden’s Choice I site in Washington County to search for buried domestic structures. The GPR survey revealed the presence of an anomaly suggestive of a subsurface foundation remnant roughly 40 ft east-west by 20 ft north-south, and with an apparent chimney remnant (roughly 5 X 5 ft) near the center. In the fall of 2021, MHT collaborated with the Western Chapter of the Archeological Society of Maryland to excavate three test units to ground truth these GPR anomalies. The ground truthing excavations uncovered remnant rubble stone foundations with artifacts recovered from the plowzone dating primarily to the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

3D models of the excavation units that revealed the remains of a late 18th century
foundation.

Domestic artifacts were present such as furniture tacks, buttons, clay marbles, handwrought nails and coins including a 1776 Spanish half-reale, a pierced 1796 half dime, and a “draped bust” American half cent (1800-1808). A Napoleon Bonaparte First Consulate German jetton was also recovered. A jetton is a commemorative token or medal and this one likely dates to the years 1799-1804, before Napolean was coronated as Emperor. The fall 2021 excavations suggest that this site is a domestic site associated with the Barnes-Mason family that occupied the Maiden’s Choice property after 1773.

Fortunately, in the three examples discussed above, ground truthing of remote sensing anomalies resulted in the discovery of artifact rich archaeological features. However, this is not always the case. Remote sensing anomalies can also be caused by natural occurrences like bioturbation from plant roots and animal burrows. Accordingly, although it is tempting to jump straight from remote sensing results to archaeological site interpretation, the step of ground truthing cannot be skipped. Excavations will always be necessary to determine whether remote sensing anomalies are in fact the remains of
exciting archaeological features or less exciting gopher holes.

3D Visualization for Archaeology and Open Educational Resources (OER)

By Chris Givan (JPPM Digital Education Coordinator) and Noah Boone (JPPM Digital Education Content Developer)

Photogrammetry is a technique for creating 3D models, which is increasingly common in cultural and research contexts. At Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum, we’ve been using photogrammetry to create models of archaeological sites and artifacts that may not be accessible to visitors or which may be of interest to folks for whom the park is inaccessible because of its location. Thanks to a project funded by an IMLS CARES Act Grant for Museums and Libraries, we’ve begun to provide photogrammetric models as Open Education Resources (OER) and are exploring how to replicate, at home or in the classroom, the experience of visiting archaeological sites or interacting with artifacts.

Photogrammetry software creates 3-dimensional data by analyzing photos taken at multiple angles around a subject. This can be done using a variety of programs, both proprietary (Agisoft Metashape, Reality Capture, etc) and free-and-open-source (Meshroom, MicMac, etc). This process requires a high degree of overlap between photos by moving the camera or subject in small increments, such as with small rotations on a turntable. The programs identify like points between these photographs and construct a 3-dimensional point cloud (below, left). This point cloud can then be further processed to create a 3-dimensional model that can be viewable and distributable for a variety of purposes (below, right).

Side-by-side comparison of a point-cloud, left, and a mesh, right, in Agisoft Metashape. The rectangles surrounding and overlapping the image are Agisoft’s estimation of where the camera was when a corresponding photograph was taken.

Photogrammetry is incredibly scalable and results are primarily dependent on camera equipment. This method can be used with drone photography for creating models of landscapes and buildings and macro-photography can even be used to create models of insects. Photogrammetry offers many exciting possibilities to look at things in a different light and look at things at angles or scales that would otherwise not be possible.

We’re using our models from photogrammetry in a number of ways. First, we will be making models available as resources for anyone with a use for them on JPPM’s SketchFab page. SketchFab is a website for hosting and sharing 3D models, which includes contributions from cultural institutions around the world. We particularly like SketchFab because museum accounts allow you to restrict downloads if dealing with artifacts or sites for which you have received permission to make the models viewable but not redistributable.

Below are two objects on SketchFab that we have scanned with photogrammetry. The model of the site known as Sukeek’s Cabin includes annotations, an additional benefit of using SketchFab that allows us to add educational content directly to models.

However, publishing on SketchFab does limit interactivity and we want to replicate some of the physicality of visiting sites or seeing artifacts up close. There are also practical limits to what can be included in annotations. To achieve more interactivity we’re using the service Genial.ly. SketchFab models can be embedded directly into Genial.ly “microsites” with rich media or additional interactivity. Below, we used photogrammetry to model an “alphabet plate” found at Sukeek’s Cabin. We’ve used Genial.ly to simulate another dimension of “handling” the object by encouraging viewers to reassemble 2D views of the fragments. Even though this additional interaction is 2-dimensional, it derives from photogrammetry of the plate. On an interesting note, we were able to do this by photographing the plate while it remained in its display at JPPM’s Visitor’s Center, and the interaction we’ve simulated is not actually possible in person given preservation needs.

To enable even more interactivity, we’re using Unity, a game engine for creating both 3D and 2D content. Unity is commonly used for indie games but its streamlined experience and support for computers, mobile devices, and web browsers makes it excellent for education–as does a large community of users and assets to help speed development. By shifting from SketchFab and Genial.ly, where we’re limited to either visualizing a model in 3-dimensions or simulating additional interactions with the model from 2-dimensional perspectives, Unity enables interaction with archaeological sites and artifacts from the first person perspective or with controllers that do a better job approximating the feel of an object.

In the video below, you can see a very early experience of “walking” around the Sukeek’s Cabin site here on park property. Despite the ghostly reconstruction (because parts of it are hypothetical or not known with confidence*), there is still a sense of hominess when inside and the stairs in the corner invite further exploration. In the distance, we have added a representation of the Peterson house. Newly emancipated, Sukeek and family were still living within sight of their former captor’s home. From the first person perspective, the house feels watchful–a feeling difficult to replicate in SketchFab or Genial.ly, missing from the site today, but true to the limits newly-freed families often found on their freedom.

A user explores the virtual environment around the Sukeek’s Cabin site. The photogrammetric model is visible on the ground as are interactive hotspots. A “ghost” of the home can be toggled on and off to get a sense of what it would have looked like.

We use these results in Open Education Resources (OER): free and openly-licensed resources that encourage reuse and remixing. (For more information, see this explainer from the University of Maryland or visit our Provider Set on OER Commons for examples.) For OER, photogrammetry offers a way to present lots of information with each resource. Photos and videos preserve how an artifact or archaeological site looks from a limited set of views, but digital models can preserve how a subject looks from any point of view, even those that may not be practically accessible. Where photogrammetry excels as an educational tool, though, is in approximating being able to tangibly interact with an artifact or site. While most interactions still rely on 2D screens, the opportunity to move and manipulate 3D models within those 2D interfaces helps replicate some of the sense of holding an object. As AR/VR and 3D printers improve, having a 3D model of an artifact or site will only improve in educational effectiveness.

*In addition to the current staff at JPPM, we are indebted to conversations with Kirsti Uunila and Ed Chaney for guidance on how the cabin would have looked.

Celebrating 60 Years of Preservation in Maryland

By Elizabeth Hughes, Maryland Historical Trust Director

In 1961, the world was changing – and fast.  This was the year that Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gargarin became the first human to fly in space.  It was the year in which Freedom Riders began interstate bus rides, to test the U.S. Supreme Court rulings on desegregation.  It launched a decade of Cold War intrigue as construction of the Berlin Wall got underway, and the Bay of Pigs failure laid the groundwork for the Cuban Missile Crisis.  In this same year, the Maryland Historical Trust was born.  

Elizabeth Hughes in her office in Crownsville

Authorized on May 3, 1961, MHT was “created for the purpose of preserving and maintaining historical, aesthetic, and cultural properties, buildings, fixtures, furnishings and appurtenances pertaining in any way to the Province and State of Maryland from earliest times, to encourage others to do so and to promote interest in and study of such matters.”

Former MHT Director J. Rodney Little in his Annapolis office in 1980

After sixty years, a lot has changed. Certainly, the language of that purpose clause no longer rings true today. We recognize the history of this place predates European concepts of a Maryland “province” or “state.” MHT‘s mission is no longer concerned with “fixtures” and “furnishings” and has expanded to consider archaeology and landscapes. We no longer operate as an independent entity, but we are a bigger and better funded agency.  Today, each state has a State Historic Preservation Office, but in 1961, Maryland was unusual in committing state support to our shared cultural heritage. With the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966 and subsequent programs to foster preservation and archaeology, a network of federal, state, and local partners has grown to support these important efforts around the country. Of course, in more recent memory, our ways of working have also shifted: email correspondence, webinars, and virtual meetings have all but replaced faxes, hard copies, and in-person workshops. What else needs to change and what should remain the same?

MHT Board of Trustees’ ceremony for the Maryland Preservation Awards, c. 1990

As we celebrate our diamond anniversary this Preservation Month, I would like to hear from you. Please use this simple Google Form to give us your thoughts and let us know what you’d like to see from us in the future. In the next few weeks, in response to feedback we received from our recent COVID-19 survey of historic and cultural organizations, I will also host a virtual listening session to learn more from our constituents about current challenges and help encourage peer-to-peer exchange. Depending on demand, we may offer additional sessions going forward. Watch our Facebook page or sign up for news if you’d like to register! 

Thanks in advance for sharing with us, and here’s to the next sixty years! 

Revisiting a 19th-century Flea Glass from the Southern Dispensary

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.

An example of a handled Flea Glass Dating to the Second Quarter of the Nineteenth Century.
(Source: https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/simple-microscope-flea-glass-245822098)

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.

Flea Glass or Simple Microscope from the Federal Reserve Site (Top and Side Views).
Photo by Nicole Doub, MAC Lab.

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).

Simple Microscope Mounted on a Stand.
Similar instruments were illustrated as early as 1685 in Oculus Artificialis by Johann Zahn

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.

References

Bradbury, S.
1968 The Microscope Past and Present. Pergamon International Popular Science Series. Pergamon Press, Ltd., Oxford.

Mdmedicine
2017 Epidemics in Maryland. Website accessed January 13, 2017. http://mdhistoryonline.net/mdmedicine/index.cfm?action=epidemics

Polk, R. L.
1888 The Medical Directory and Register for Baltimore, Washington, Maryland and District of Columbia. R. L. Polk & Co., Baltimore.

Register
1890 Annual Reports of the Register of the City and the Commissioners of Finance. John Cox, Printer, Baltimore.

Woods, John W.
1847 The Act of Incorporation and By-laws, of the Southern Dispensary of Baltimore: Together with a List of Officers for 1847. Baltimore.

Zahn, Johann
1685 Oculus Artificialis Teledioptricus Sive Telescopium. Würzburg, Germany.

Erosion Threatens Cultural Resources at the 17th-century Calverton Site: Maryland’s Flood Awareness Month and Archeology Month Align

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 MonthAt 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.

The Calverton Shoreline, 1682 vs. Today

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.

Magnetic Susceptibility Data Collected by the MHT Office of Archaeology

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.

Map Depicting the Rate of Shoreline Loss at Calverton between 2017 and 2020

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.

Introducing mdFIND: a Collector App for Unanticipated Artifact Discoveries

By Matt McKnight, Chief Archaeologist

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!”

Hand holding historic artifacts recovered in the field.

Historic Artifacts Recovered in the Field

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!

Image of a smartphone with the mdFIND app loaded.

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?