Sunday, October 14, 2007

Near Future of Port Tobacco's Distant Past

On the evening of October 11, before the Northern Chesapeake Archaeological Society in Perryville (Cecil County, Maryland), I gave my first formal presentation on the Port Tobacco Archaeological Project; the first of what I expect to be many illustrated talks by the project staff. During the talk I characterized Port Tobacco as the best preserved site of a historic Chesapeake town in Maryland. I've worked on such 'lost towns' for a good many years and I think the characterization accurate and appropriate. The question now, as the initial survey moves forward at a steady pace, is: Where do we go from here? Once we have completed our survey, after we have cataloged all of the artifacts, drawn all the maps, and prepared a detailed report of the findings, what comes next?

Expansive excavations, exposing not only entire buildings, but blocks of the town, is not in the near future. Many questions can be answered with a smaller effort, and troublesome issues such as where to properly store and manage the collection of artifacts remain to be resolved. In the short term, however, there are questions that the project team can and should answer; questions that can be addressed with relatively small test excavations undertaken in areas pinpointed by the survey. Our primary concern at the moment is understanding the complex geology of the site and, particularly, the processes by which not only the river but the town became engulfed with sediments. Precisely when did flooding occur and what did the town look like after destructive storms. Understanding these events is integral to our study of the rise and fall of the town and to the analysis and interpretation of finds in answering many other questions.

Within the next two months, the Archeological Society of Maryland's board of trustees will settle on a site for its annual field session, typically held around Memorial Day Weekend. The field session brings scores of avocational and professional archaeologists to a site for ten to twelve days for controlled archaeological excavations, laboratory work, lectures, and sometimes tours, in an atmosphere of collegiality and friendship. It is nothing short of a helluva good time, regardless of weather. April and I hope to bring the 2008 Tyler Bastian Annual Field Session to Port Tobacco. During this week and a half expedition, we would like to explore the geological and occupational history of Maryland's premier 'lost town,' the best preserved of any Maryland town site worthy of the appellation 'town.'


No comments: