By Zachary Singer, MHT Research Archaeologist
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.
The National Register of Historic Places includes three Maryland archaeological sites with Paleoindian components: the Nolands Ferry Site in Frederick County, the Katcef Site in Anne Arundel County, and the Paw Paw Cove Site in Talbot County. National Register listing indicates that these archaeological sites have been recognized for their significance in archaeology and identified as worthy of preservation.
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.