Thursday, October 11, 2007

The History of Archaeology at Port Tobacco

The Port Tobacco Archaeological Project is not the first to conduct excavations within the town. The Society for the Restoration of Port Tobacco sponsored excavations at the courthouse from January 1967 to May 1968. At this time only the south wing of the courthouse was standing, the main section had been demolished after the fire of 1892. The goals of the excavation were to obtain sample hardware and locate original wall foundations prior to reconstruction of the courthouse.

Only 60% of the area within the foundation was excavated, partly due to limited time and finances. The other reason for the cessation of excavation was that the remains of an earlier structure had been encountered.

The courthouse that burned in 1892 was constructed in 1819. What archaeologists uncovered inside the foundation appeared to date from sometime between 1680 and 1770. Rose-headed nails, clay pipes, and brickwork of a different type and style were found. The older brickwork also passed underneath the west wall of the 1819 foundation, further supporting the interpretation that it was from an earlier structure.

Those involved in the 1967-68 excavations included John and Roberta Wearmouth, Sarah L. Matthay, Phil Stringer, Vivian Malczyk, Jim Gainer, Raymond Coffman, The Steffens family, and Stephen Israel. The artifacts from these excavations are stored in the reconstructed courthouse. We plan on cataloging this material in the near future to include it in our analysis.

Additional excavations and an aerial survey were conducted in the 1970s. These will be the subject of another blog entry.


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