Saturday, May 3, 2008

PTAP in the Field

Sunday and Monday the Port Tobacco Archaeological Project returns to the field. We will be surface collecting the fields extending southward from town to Warehouse Point.

We are looking for Indian sites as part of our continuing effort to understand Native American lifeways in the valley, as well as determine how and when the Port Tobacco River shifted and the role of upland sediments in that movement.

Of course, we are also trying to locate historic period sites. Are there early sites south of town representing Chandler's Town (late 17th, very early 18th centuries)? Did the move of port facilities south to Warehouse Point occur at one time, or incrementally, leaving traces of progressively later occupations as one moves south along the river?

Our study will be complicated somewhat in that the process of sedimentation from the uplands to the east that buried the town and filled the river channel probably covered the fields as well. Hopefully, the plow will have scratched some of these deeper deposits, bringing enough artifacts to the surface to allow us to identify prehistoric and historic deposits.

I'll post some initial impressions after fieldwork tomorrow, if I have the energy after slogging through plowed fields all day.


Friday, May 2, 2008

Movie Night Poll

After some techinical difficulties, the new poll is up for movie night. You have 4 choices and once the polling is done on June 1st, we will have a run off of the top two vote getters and post a second poll to decide which movie we will watch!

- Peter

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Field & Lecture

Pete had some technical difficulties launching the poll for the field session movie night...hopefully we can get it done tomorrow. I'm half glad for the difficulty because I have two announcements and I prefer to make them today rather than wait:

  1. We will be conducting a controlled surface collection of the fields south of Port Tobacco. So far, weather permitting, we plan to be there from 9:30AM to 3PM this Sunday and Monday. We will rendezvous in front of the courthouse. Volunteers welcome. Please contact me at if you are interested in participating.
  2. On May 13, the Charles County Archaeological Society will meet at the old Train Station in La Plata, 7:30PM to 9PM. I will speak about a ca. 1690-1730 site that I excavated in southern Prince George's County, a site likely to be similar to its contemporaries in the Port Tobacco. A brief discussion for our new bylaws and election of officers will precede the talk.

We are gearing up for an eventful summer.


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Clearly Established?

On Sunday, I posted an excerpt from Barry Kent's "Susquehanna's Indians." In the excerpt, Kent says that the Susquehannock presence at the Piscataway fort was "clearly established" by archaeology. Later on in the same book he has this to say:

"One typical tulip pipe was found at the Piscataway fort and is in fact the only real archaeological evidence for identifying the Susquehannock occupation of that site in 1676 (Stephenson et al. 1963:137-38)." (147)

These tulip pipes are clay smoking pipes that appear to be a melding of earlier Susquehannock styles with the colonial styles of the time. An interesting artifact in deed, but does one pipe clearly establish anything? In this case the researchers had the benefit of archival records that suggested the Susquehannock occupation. Otherwise, I would be quite skeptical. (psst...don't tell anyone but I am still skeptical)


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Consider the Elephant

Consider the Elephant is book by Aram Schefrin and purported to have been told by Edwin Booth, brother of John Wilkes. While I am certain Edwin was privy to much of what his brother said and did, I think much of the writing is the author's prose and flair. Regardless, the following exerpt about Atzerodt caught my eye:

It was half after midnight when the second man appeared. He wore short black Blucher boots, a dirt-streaked ancient bang-up coat and a bollinger hat with the crown crushed in along most of its circumference. His eyes were little marbles, of no discernible shade; he had no neck; his eyebrows melded above his nose; his jaw had a Cro-Magnon look and his hair flopped down over his ears and tucked itself inside them. Surratt, who'd answered the door this time, had never seen him before. He was dismayed at the look of him. "What do you want?" he asked. "Mein nomme its Atzerrrrodtt." "What?" "My nomme its Atzerrrrrrrodtt." " What?" "lch komme by Meester Brawner... " "Ah." Surratt allowed the fellow by, and the bourbon breeze which trailed him. "We're out of rooms," Surratt explained. "You'll have to sleep here in the parlor." "Oh, ya, fine, fine." "I'm going to bed. It's late." "Oh, ya, long trip. Gutte nacht to you. "Appolonia, in the morning, was the first to discover him. She shrieked, took a tight grip on her nose and ran into Mary's bedroom which was just behind the public room on the second floor. Mary threw on a cottage cloak and came out to examine the man. He was snoring on her best settee with his knees tucked into his chin. "John!" she hollered. "Get down here! Who is this golem?" Surratt quickly skittered down the stairs. "His name is Atzerodt, Ma." "I don't care what his name is. The man is a stinking pig!" "He won't be here long..." "I don't want him near Anna. Get him out of my house! "Along about noon, Surratt met Wilkes at Deery's billiard hall. They stayed long enough for Wilkes to make a good dent in a quart of brandy. Surratt explained the problem he had with Atzerodt; Wilkes agreed to foot the bill for a room at a hotel. "Shall I bring him tonight?" Surratt asked. "No. I don't need him there. Tell him to meet us at midnight at Gauthier's restaurant. "Surratt sped home and woke Atzerodt. Mary had let him siesta, afraid to poke the man. After much confabulation, the clerk at the Pennsylvania House agreed to take Atzerodt in. "Any luggage?" "No," said Surratt. "Does he look like owns anything?"

Wilkes knocked on the door of room 52 at the Pennsylvania House. The room was as filthy as the man himself. Atzerodt owned next to nothing, but what he had was strewn over bed, chest and floor, mixed with flakes of puffy dough likewise dispersed from the schnecken he'd been gorging on from the German bakery. "Kill da Fice Pressident? Ya, dis iss a choke?" He was backpedaling, slithering, stumbling over his own debris, then bending to snatch up a shirt, a sock as if to say how could you ask such a thing from such a tidy man? "You refuse?" Wilkes glowered. "Ya, I refuse." Now Atzerodt stood his ground. "You're already in deep enough to be hanged ..." "Ya, but ..." "And I will see to it that you are, if you don't do what you're told. "Atzerodt touched his neck, his chin. Nodded. Bowed his head.

The picture below shows Booth threatening to kill Atzerodt if he doesn't fullfil the changed plan to assasinate Andrew Johnson.
I still think Adzerodt got a bum deal.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Indians of the Chesapeake

This Fall I will be teaching a course on Chesapeake Indians at Villa Julie College in Stevenson, Baltimore County, Maryland. I have taught a class in Historical Archaeology at Villa College each Spring for the past three years. This will be a new course...I'm currently putting it together. I expect to use Helen Rountree and Randolph Turner's (2002) Before and After Jamestown: Virginia's Powhatans and their Predecessors (University Press of Florida) as a text.

As several of us pointed out in Nancy McConaty's recent article in the Independent, we don't know a great deal about the Chesapeake region's indigenous populations at the time of Contact/Invasion. Hopefully, our research at Port Tobacco will contribute to that growing body of data, even if the deposits we examine predate the historic period by several centuries.

For readers in the northern part of Maryland who might be interested in the Villa Julie course, here are some of the specifics. For administrative details, visit the College's site:

HIST-311-E1 Topics: Indians of the Chesapeake
Offered at Villa Julie College by Jim Gibb
Fall 2008
Wednesday, 7:00-9:50PM
Room TBA
Course Description
Indians in Maryland claim great antiquity. Archaeologists agree, documenting at least 12,000 years of aboriginal occupation of the greater Chesapeake region. This course surveys the extensive archaeological evidence, introducing students to the theories, methods, and findings of archaeological research. Students will develop analytical skills and knowledge of both the ancient past and the troubled present of local Native Americans.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Susquehannocks in Maryland

In preparation for my fellowship, I am re-reading Barry Kent's "Susquehanna Indians". Kent places a Susquehannock village not far from Port Tobacco in 1675.

"By February, 1675, some Susquehannocks were reported living at the Patuxent River in Maryland (Hanna 1911:48). Ostensibly the Susquehannocks had come into Maryland to seek protection from the Seneca, but some officials feared that they actually had a secret alliance with the Seneca and had come into Maryland to discover the trength of the province. That same month the Susquehannock Chief Harignera and several others came before the Assembly to ask where they could live within the province. After much uncertainty and debate it was decided that the Susquehannocks should move above the falls of the Potomac (Maryland Archives II: 429). The Susquehannocks failed to move that far up the Potomac, for in the summer of 1675 they were living at an abandoned Piscataway Indian fort opposite the present-day Mount Vernon. Archeological work at the Piscataway site (Stephenson et al. 1963) has clearly established their presence here" (Kent 2001:47).