Friday, April 24, 2009

Field Session Registration

We are four weeks out from the Archeological Society of Maryland's Annual Field Session. For registration and details, please go to:

In preparation for the field session, I will offer a historic ceramics workshop on the preceding Saturday at J. Patterson Park & Museum from 10AM until 2PM. Please let me know if you intend to participate: All are welcome. This workshop fulfills a CAT requirement. More importantly, participants will 'hit the ground running' in identifying historic period ceramics in the field and they will have the duration of their field session participation to hone that skill.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Luxury and Fieldwork

Luxury and fieldwork...these are two words not often used together, at least not in my experience of some 30-odd years in archaeology. But, during the ASM field session (May 22-June 1), I'll warm up a bit of soup in a microwave donated by Pat Stagg (thank you Pat), and after work I'll treat myself to a cold diet root beer that will have been chilling all day in the refrigerator donated by Tom Forhan.

There will be all sorts of furnishings for the field office and crew bunk house, courtesy of Pete and the Quantock clan, along with a computer donated by Tom, a printer from the Quantocks, and a desk from Scott.

Field session hasn't even started and I'm already feeling spoiled.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Family Cemetery in Port Tobacco

Last Friday I was in town to meet with Port Tobacco Mayor John Hyde to discuss PTAP work and plans. Mayor Hyde lives on Bleak Hill in a house owned by his family for at least three generations and that was occupied by a locally prominent physician. The mayor showed me a broken marble gravestone on the hill above his house and, while walking around the find I noticed several depressions and a small terrace that likely represent the physician's family cemetery.

Mr. Hyde has given permission for the PTAP team to investigate the cemetery to determine its exact limits. Perhaps next month Scott and I will check it out with a couple of tile probes.

Readers may recall that we had previously examined the cemetery at Mulberry Grove, a little more than one mile south of town. Although the one-time home of John Hanson, most of the stones are for the Ferguson family to which the physician at Bleak Hill was related. The small cemetery to the side of the courthouse is also a family plot (although associated with the early 20th-century Baptist church), and it is very likely that there are additional family cemeteries in the area.

Let's face it...Port Tobacco was a fairly large town and it existed for three centuries...we can expect a lot of interments.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

New Grant Award

I heard today from the Community Foundation of Charles County that they awarded us a grant to help underwrite our public outreach program at Port Tobacco. We will involve the community in archaeological investigations at the Washington Burch House. This is the first grant application that Pete has worked on, so kudos to him.

Mr. Burch was the last county jailer at Port Tobacco before the new facility was built at La Plata in the late 1890s. He played prominent roles in the founding of one of the County's earliest schools for African American children in the 1870s and in establishment of churches.

The Burch House is one of three surviving 18th-century houses in town and was purchased by Mr. Burch in the late 19th century.

On behalf of the PTAP team, I thank the Community Foundation. The public ceremony will be at the College of Southern Maryland on Friday, May 15. I'm sure all are welcome.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Movie Night

We are planning on two movie nights during the field session. Last year we posted a poll to decide which movie to watch. National Treasure 2 was the winner and a good time was had by all who attended.

Since we are having two movie nights, I will take the top two vote getters and we will watch those.

Now is the time to start suggesting movies (historical and/or archaeological) for the poll.
Just comment on this post with the name of the movie and at the end of this week I will put a poll up with some of the suggestions.

Polling will continue until the end of the first week of May (May8).

- Peter

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Planning is Time Consuming

The PTAP team has been pretty quiet for the last few weeks. Part of the reason is that we are in planning mode. It is amazingly time consuming to try to organize several phases of fieldwork, especially with Jim in Annapolis and I in Ohio.

Jim posted the event schedule for the ASM field session just a few days ago. That schedule took us almost a week to produce by itself. I have created several versions of an Excel spreadsheet entitled "The Plan" which lays out what areas of Port Tobacco that want to work on for each day of the ASM field session and the entire month of June. To create this I needed to estimate how long it will take us to excavate a unit in each area of the site. This is complicated by the fact that some areas of Port Tobacco have less than one foot of artifact bearing soils while others extend down for more than five feet. Anyone who excavated in the Wade House cellar last summer knows that it can take days to dig just one of those deep units, even with 10 people assigned to that unit.

Aside from the actual excavation, we are trying to allow time in our schedule to accommodate some special groups. There will be two large groups of high school students at Port Tobacco on May 28 and 29. This visit corresponds to the days that we will be continuing work on the Native American area of the site and we have invited members of the Piscataway Conoy Tribe to come work with us. Gabrielle Tayac, a Piscataway who works as a historian for the National Museum of the American Indian will visit Port Tobacco on the 28th and treat our volunteers to a lecture about Native culture and history in the region. We have also invited members of the African American Heritage Society of Charles County to come visit us while we excavate the home of James Swann, a free African-American who ran a tavern in Port Tobacco before the Civil War.

In addition to the more intellectual aspects of fieldwork, we have to deal with ordering Port-A-Johns, and installing temporary shower facilities at the site for the crew and for any volunteers who want to camp out at the site during the ASM field session to control costs. We need to acquire cooking implements and some food staples (can't BBQ without BBQ sauce!). We need to clean out the field house and get it setup to be home to the 8+ staff members who will be living there for 2 weeks and the interns and myself who will call it home for 5 whole weeks.

So, stick with us through the logistical downtime and you will be rewarded with field updates from 6 weeks of non-stop fieldwork.