Saturday, November 1, 2008

Pot Sherd Mania

Well, after many hours of staring at little pieces of fired earth through an 8X magnifier and measuring the bits of sand, crushed quartz, and shell that served as temper, I finally finished cataloguing the aboriginal pottery from June's 'Big Dig.' A tedious, but instructive, exercise. Some number crunching remains to be done, but that's the fun part. Here are some preliminary results:
  1. We recovered nearly 350 sherds of aboriginal pottery.
  2. About 86% of those came from the seven units that Pete was in charge of...the so-called aboriginal locus identified through shovel testing in October of 2007.
  3. We recovered 14 sherds of Accokeek (Early Woodland) and eight Mockley (Middle Woodland), but most of the sherds date to the Late Woodland (post AD 900).
  4. The Late Woodland sherds include Potomac Creek (82), Townsend (34), and Moyaone (166) types, and three possible Yeocomico sherds.
  5. Moyaone sherds comprise about one-half of the aboriginal pottery assemblage, Potomac Creek about one-quarter, and Townsend about 10%.
  6. Surface treatment and decoration in all cases were limited to cord-marking (well, there are a few net-impressed and fabric impressed wares)...there were no incised decorations.
In general, the aboriginal pottery dates to the latter part of the Late Woodland. This contrasts with our findings in the plowed fields which comprise mostly earlier (Late Archaic/Transitional) materials.

I'll post additional findings as I analyze the spatial and stratigraphic relationships among the sherds and other aboriginal artifacts.


Friday, October 31, 2008

Jailhouse Update

I was looking through the abstracts about the jailhouse in the PT Times and found a couple interesting things.

First, lots of people broke out of the jail...easily. It's amazing to me how simple some of these ideas were and that they worked. I guess I'm used to seeing the big "super max" prisons of today. In one case an "inmate" used a log to break open the ceiling of the jail and then crawl out. Where did he get a log from? The jail had a fireplace in it, but did the prisoners have access to the wood and the fire itself? Seems odd to me, but there was another entry in which a prisoner burned a hole in the floor and then dug through the dirt to get out!

Another interesting note was that while building the 1857 jailhouse, the abstract noted that the 1811 jailhouse did not get demolished until the new one was built. In the same note it stated that prisoners were being held in a "temporary jail". Where was this temporary jail and what did it look like?

Just a couple interesting things I pulled out of the abstracts that were posted on Tuesday, July 8, 2008

- Peter

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Note on Christ Church

Before I post anything, I check our blog to see what has already been said on the subject so I don't repeat myself (or someone else!) I was thinking about Christ Church and the cemetery we found and whether the two are connected. My guess is they are but its too early in the project to state for certain.

Last December, Jim posted a blog about Christ Church and the possibility of 5 different building phases through time.

One thing in particular caught my the end of the blog there is a picture of the sign near the ruins of the last Christ Church in Port Tobacco and it points out into Compton Field. While it doesn't point at the cemetery we found persay, it does point in that general direction. It could be that the question Jim asked then..."What is it pointing to? The site of the original log church? If so, it is not very specific as to where that church was located."

It's very possible that we are on the right track to finding the original church!

- Peter

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Aboriginal Pottery Update

As I have mentioned, Jim is working on the analysis of the Aboriginal pottery. We just had a brief discussion about what he has been looking at and so I am going to share with you a little bit of that. While some Early (BC900-300) and Middle Woodland (AD200-900) pottery has been uncovered, the majority of the pottery coming from the site has been Late Woodland (AD1300-1650), specifically Potomac Creek and Moyoane types.

Moyaone is a Late Woodland ware, characterized by fine grained sand and mica temper, soft texture, compact paste, and smoothed interior and exterior surfaces.
Potomac Creek is a Late Woodland ware, characterized by a crushed quartz or sand temper, cord-marked exteriors, and rim strips (collars).
We have talked about the different pottery types before so I won't go into specific details. When we were out in the field, most of the pottery we found was thought to be Potomac Creek pottery. Because of the similarities of the two types it can be hard to identify until it is been cleaned and looked at closely (under a microscope if necessary). The pottery was found in every locus except the Jailhouse Locus. So if we look at what we have, it suggests that we have different occupations of Port Tobacco from around BC900-AD1650. What kind of occupation I can't say. It may have been a seasonal camp or something more permanent. Port Tobacco is on a floodplain and has good land for cultivating crops which would make it an attractive area for Native Americans to settle.

For detailed information about each of the pottery types, I direct you to the Jefferson Patterson Park website.
Jim will have more to say on this topic once he has finished the analysis of the pottery.
- Peter

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Summer is Over!

It's nearing the end of October and we have had very mild weather for the fall around here. Well that's ended. A Nor'easter has blown threw and we are getting the remnants of it. High winds and rain the past two days (with another day to come) have us in the office today. We were out doing a shovel test survey of a property in Bowie yesterday and were able to complete that in the wind and light rain before the heavy stuff started to come down.

Report writing and Aboriginal artifact analysis was the plan for today. Unfortunately the weather has killed the power at the, Jim is reading up for his class on Friday with the dogs at his feet to keep him warm.

How then can I write this if the power is out you ask? I'm working from home...with the heat on.

We are still awaiting word on some grants and are looking forward to spending some time back out on site in the coming months. We will, as usual, post information as soon as we can about dates for fieldwork. For now, its report writing and analysis in the office.

I'll try and find something more interesting to say tomorrow...

- Peter

Monday, October 27, 2008


It was a great weekend down in St. Mary's City despite the rain and wind!

All the presentations were very good that I heard. As usual with these conferences you have to pick and choose which session to attend during the days. The opening presentations were all about the Archaeology of the Atlantic World. They mostly focused on past work and what exactly the "Atlantic World" consists of. Not everyone agrees.

Lunch on Saturday was set up under a tent next to Farthings Tavern and I thought for sure the wind was going to blow the tent away at one point! The food was very good and it was nice to sit and talk with some of the other attendees.

The afternoon presentations were about finding 17th Century sites in Delaware. Interesting but not very informative.

Saturday night, Scott and I went on a Cemetery Crawl in the pouring rain! Lots of fun and then we headed over to "The Green Door" (a local bar, nay, the only bar!) for some cocktails and to listen to a Blues band.

Sunday morning was spent listening to presentations on public archaeology. Basically it was that we need to do a better job of bringing archaeology to the public but no real solutions. Our presentation went well and there were a few familiar faces in the small crowd.

All in all, a good conference that I enjoyed. Now its time to start writing for the MAAC's in the spring.

- Peter

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Seeking Lost Towns & Cities

I was preparing a lecture today for a Friday morning class that I give at the local senior center. The subject of the course is recent discoveries in archaeology around the world. Not having studied world archaeology since my undergraduate days back in the 1970s, I've had to do some remedial work. While reading about the recent discoveries in Giza (Egypt) and Caral (Supe Valley, Peru), I was struck by the similar approaches taken by the PTAP team and those of scholars working on some of the most important archaeological sites in the world.

All of us are confronted with the same problem: how do we explore complex sites that we suspect were urban, but for which little evidence survives above ground? The common answer is survey...we all collect information on a broad area that includes and extends beyond the expected limits of the site. We forgo intensive excavation, with its short-term potential for producing extraordinary finds, and employ survey techniques that will limn the extent of the site, and possibly aspects of its internal structure (e.g., streets, neighborhoods, special sites such as religious edifices). As we develop a deeper understanding of the we map its extents...then we can begin to devise questions and select areas for more detailed study.

There is still some survey that we can do at Port Tobacco, including the east side of Chapel Point Road and the forested areas interspersed among the Edelen family's fields; but the bulk of the survey has been completed and it's time to focus more on certain parts of the site. We started that this past June and we expect to test other parts of the town site over the coming year.

We will not find gold masks or elaborate tombs with mummified kings. We will find the many aspects of common life of the common people whose contributions, seemingly mundane, built the foundations on which our society is founded.