Saturday, May 17, 2008

New Discoveries

While working in the fields south of Port Tobacco today I received a call on my cell phone. Not an unusual event. It was Scott calling. Also not unusual. Scott was calling me from less than 300 feet away. That was unusual. He had a reason: a very neat find.

Scott, Elsie, Tom, and Bonnie (my wife) were flagging artifacts while Pete and I mapped and collected. They were a ways ahead of us when they started finding Staffordshire Combed Slipware, Buckley ware, Rhenish/Westerwald Blue and Gray stoneware, and other stuff clearly dating to the 18th century. I don't think they found any North Devonshire sand tempered earthenware (pre 1725) or any molded White Salt-Glazed stoneware (typically 1750 and later), which suggests a dwelling site dating to approximately 1725-1750. There was no brick, so it almost certainly was an earthfast dwelling.

Mixed in with these materials we found alot of flakes and fire-cracked rock, as well as two Claggett projectile points similar to the one recovered in the fields to the north. The site, therefore, has a Late Archaic Indian component.

More tomorrow.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Data Processing

Our approach to the fields south of town should prove very useful as we are collecting accurate, precise information on everything we find. The down side of this approach, however, is large numbers of data that have to be processed to produce detailed maps with topographic contours. Typing in long series of numbers all day, especially on gloomy, rainy days can be trying. But we'll not feel sorry for ourselves because tomorrow we are back in the sun having fun.

A brief note on my use of the terms 'accuracy' and 'precision.' If I were to say that there are 290 million people in the United States, that probably would be accurate. If I said there were 281,089, 004 people in the United States in 2005, that would be more precise, but inaccurate. (It is impossible to achieve that degree of precision and absolute accuracy in counting members of a population...there are too many people dying and being born at any one time, quite apart from the other problems inherent in any census system.)

In mapping artifacts in the field, our instrument calculates to the nearest hundredth of a foot, but if the person holding the rod with the prism over the artifact doesn't have that rod perfectly plumb, the error could easily exceed the degree of precision. If I were to estimate the accuracy with which we map artifacts, I'd say we have each object within three inches (0.25 ft) of its true location. Given the fact that the field has been plowed repeatedly over the centuries, the error probably is irrelevant. The clustering of materials still tell us where the sites are.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Weekend Schedule

Just a quick word for today. Pete and I finished the surface collection of the northern part of the field just south of Port Tobacco proper. Yep; we have a Jim-Dandy 18th-century site with a prehistoric component. Given the large number and diversity of fine 18th-century ceramics, I suspect this dwelling site also served as a tavern. (Not really that much of a stretch...most Colonial period dwellings in ports probably served as taverns when the tobacco fleet arrived.)

Weather permitting, we expect to continue with the surface collection of Mr. Edelen's fields all weekend. Volunteers welcome!


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Fieldwork Continues

We will be heading back out into the field tomorrow to continue the survey of the north field near the courthouse. Jim has been updating you on the middle field results and I am currently working on the autoCAD map of the north field. Hopefully we will have this part wrapped up this week and some analysis for you over the weekend.

As usual, volunteers are welcome. We will meet between 9:15 and 9:30am in front of the courthouse. Hope to see you all there!


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Negative Dialectics of Tobacco

Last week, I received a package in the mail containing a book entitled Confederate Spies at Large by John Stewart. Much to my surprise, inside the cover, there was a note to me and it was signed by the author. It seems Mr. Stewart and I have a common friend, Linda Reno, and she had him send me the book as a gift. I was also honored when the author called me at home and we discussed at length, his book and the PTAP. He told me he would see if he could find more information on Atzerodt, the mysterious Lincoln conspirator. What a pleasant surprise!

Some might remember one of my posts from last week that included an excerpt from the book Consider the Elephant by Aram Schefrin. Again, I was honored that this author posted a comment on my blog and has included a link to the PTAP on his web site.

Today, I decided to include some reference material for anyone interested in the Lincoln Assassination Conspiracy as well as other interesting printed material concerning Port Tobacco. There are hundred of writings about the Lincoln assassination, but I list a few of the ones I am familiar with. If you are one of the authors listed below and can give us some insight into Atzerodt or other happenings in Port Tobacco, let us know.

Lincoln Conspiracy Books

Blood on the Moon Edward Steers Jr.
Confederate Spies at Large John Stewart
Consider the Elephant Arem Schefrin
American Brutus Michael W. Kauffman
The Lincoln Murder Conspiracies William Hanchett
Confederate Covert Action in the American Civil War William A. Tidwell

Port Tobacco Books

The Price of Nationhood Jean Butenhoff Lee
History of the Society of Jesus in North America Thomas Hughes S.J.
John Hanson of Mulberry Grove J. Bruce Kremer
The History of Charles County, Maryland Margaret Brown Klapthar & Paul Dennis Brown
The Lost Towns Donald Schomette

Again, this is by no means a comprehensive list, but merely intended to give the reader a place to begin.

Now you may be asking yourself, “What does the Negative Dialectics of Tobacco have to do with this reading list?” Nothing really.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

More on Prehistoric Site

Today I washed and catalogued the artifacts that the team had recovered from one of the fields. I have some further observations on the prehistoric sites that I discussed Friday and Saturday. The image below provides a more detailed view of the distribution of prehistoric artifacts.

Toward the bottom of the map are a series of symbols representing fire-cracked rock. These are pebble fragments shattered by excessive heat alone or coupled with a douse of cold water. They represent stone cooking platforms for roasting roots or nuts, or 'potboilers'--heated stones immersed in wooden vessels, pitch-covered baskets, or earthen pots to heat liquids and cook foods. Given the relatively few pieces recovered, the potboiler interpretation more likely is the correct one.

We also recovered 44 quartz and quartzite flakes (see Table below). These include examples of various stages of stone tool manufacture, from initial breaking of a pebble (decortication flakes), to the creation of suitable flakes on which a tool might be made (primary flakes), to the shaping and sharpening (and resharpening) of the tools (secondary and tertiary flakes); as well as those shatter pieces that could not be classified. These artifacts indicate that the aboriginal occupants collected local pebbles (there are very few on the site, but plenty nearby) and made tools on site. The crew even recovered two bifaces (we can think of them as knives).

The decortication flakes are particularly interesting. These are flakes that retain some of the outer rind of the pebble whence they were struck. They comprise 28 of the 44 flakes and many are of a size and shape that they could have been intended for use as tools; that is, I could have classified them as primary flakes. All of the flakes were recovered from a portion of the field that had few cobbles and pebbles, and even fewer that were large enough to serve as raw material for a stone tool.

Precisely when these folks were cooking and making tools along the river bank remains uncertain. The crew recovered a piece of Accokeek pottery, a style that dates to roughly 1000 BC, as well as a Savannah River projectile point (see previous posting) that dates between roughly 3000 and 1000 BC. The Claggett projectile point and the historic period artifacts came from elsewhere in the field.

This is a neat little site. If the remains of hearths, storage pits, and molds of wooden posts for dwellings survive beneath the plowed soils, the site could have valuable information on the lifeways of the region's aboriginal inhabitants.