Saturday, July 25, 2009

What's the Point?

Stratum 1 of Unit 44 in the Compton Field yielded the glass bead and the clay marble highlighted in the last two posts. From that same provenience the crew recovered this Brewerton projectile point.

Brewerton projectile point, Lot 660.

The point is about 1.6" long, 0.8" wide, and 0.25" thick (42 mm, 20 mm, and 7 mm for those metrically inclined), and made of quartzite, probably from a local stream pebble. Precisely when this side-notched point was made, used, and discarded remains uncertain. Examples found in the northeastern United States often are considered to be more recent (Late Archaic period, or 4,000 BC to 1,000 BC) and those further south are often considered to be earlier (Middle Archaic, or 6,000 BC to 4,000 BC). Brewerton points were first classified by William A. Ritchie based on numerous finds with shared characteristics at an archaeological site on Brewerton Lake in New York State. These point types have been recovered from Maine to Alabama, although it is by no means certain that they were used at the same time. Indeed, I suspect we are looking at independent invention of similar forms.

Brewerton points, like most projectile points pre-dating the Late Woodland period (ca. AD 900-AD1600), probably tipped javelins propelled by throwing sticks, or atlatls.

The presence of this point in the same deposit as the clay marble and the trade bead demonstrates the highly mixed nature of the plowed deposits. Mixed or not, however, those deposits reveal the very considerable antiquity of the Indian presence along Port Tobacco Creek.


Friday, July 24, 2009

More Spheres

On the subject of small spherical objects, here is a clay marble recovered from the plowzone in Unit 44. It is about 0.7 inches in diameter and is slightly eccentric, as clay marbles tend to be. (No; it doesn't exhibit strange just isn't perfectly round.)

Heidelberg student Magan Schlegel has been analyzing marbles from Port Tobacco and, I think, those recovered from the Johnson's Island prisoner of war facility in Ohio. I'm not sure what Confederate officers were doing with these toys in the early 1860s, but in Port Tobacco they were almost certainly used by children.

Archaeologists tend to overlook children in the archaeological record; yet most would agree that children's play is vital in helps make the adults who eventually become the subject of archaeological study. There have been some forays into this line of archaeological research, but the archaeological study of play remains largely unplowed ground.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Small Finds

What is a glass sphere, a little over a half inch in diameter, has a hole running clear through from one pole to the next, and is black. If you guessed a bead, you are correct. (Don't be wasn't that difficult.)

This is one of a number of small interesting finds recovered from Port Tobacco this spring. As cataloguing progresses, we will highlight others.

The bead came from one of the two excavation units in the south part of the Compton field, units we dug in search of the James Swann House. (It turns out that we probably found the Swann House site on the west side of the hedgerow, about 30 ft from where Pete and his team were digging in the woods.) We had also uncovered a posthole and mold in one of those two units in Compton field...something certainly was afoot there in the Colonial Period.

Dennis Curry opined at the time that this artifact is a trade bead; viz., a bead of European manufacture (typically made in Italy or the Netherlands) traded to East Coast Indians for animal pelts, maize, meat, and sundry other items. If it is a trade bead, it is the third so far recovered from Port Tobacco and another indication that colonists and Indians interacted on site.

Reminder: Scott will run another lab this Saturday, 9 AM to 3 PM, at the Port Tobacco Courthouse, and Pete will run one at Crownsville on Monday, 9 AM to 3 PM.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Temporarily distracted by other projects, Pete and Anne return to cataloguing Port Tobacco material tomorrow. Before leaving today, Pete gave me a quick rundown on material awaiting washing and cataloguing. Even without specific numbers, it is pretty clear that we will be at this for awhile. On top of the field session material, which we handled quickly and easily after last year's field session, we have four weeks of April and her moles collecting material.

I suspect that we will easily have catalogued 300,000 artifacts from Port Tobacco by the end of this year. We'll highlight a few of those over the next few weeks.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Crownsville Lab Day

Pete and Maxine worked today on Port Tobacco material at the Maryland Historical Trust laboratory. Bruce Thompson graciously cleared some space and freed up some equipment for us...thank you Bruce.

Our next scheduled lab days are this Saturday at Port Tobacco, 9 AM to 3 PM, and next Monday at Crownsville, 9 AM to 3 PM.

In related news, I've started working on a report today for the phased development of an interpretive trail to lead from Thomas Stone Historic Site to Chapel Point State Park, via Port Tobacco, a distance of something over five miles. I expect to post soon some of the draft interpretive signs on the Society for the Restoration of Port Tobacco's website. Eventually we will have a virtual tour of Port Tobacco and its surroundings. Stay tuned.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Artifacts of the Day

Here is an odd assortment of small objects recovered from one strat in unit 11. My photo log lists these objects as "wig curler, "Rin Roce Best" button, fake diamond, ?, shark's tooth, grommet". These objects obviously span a huge time range, but that is to be expected in the plow zone. The wig curler should be colonial while the "diamond" is modern.