Wednesday, May 21, 2008

First Clear Glimpse of Chandler's Town

Pete and I have a long way to go yet in processing the surface collection data for the fields south of Port Tobacco proper, but we have enough data at hand to say that we have the first clear evidence of Chandler's Town, the community that existed before Port Tobacco was designated the Charles County seat.

In the southernmost field, as we have been discussing over the past week or so, the field crew found a well-defined historic period site. Many pieces of Buckley ware, Rhenish Blue & Gray Stoneware, wine bottle glass, and Staffordshire Combed Slipware, coupled with just the odd piece or two of White Salt-Glazed Stoneware and one of Creamware, put the site squarely in the first half of the 18th century.

We also collected 31 clay tobacco pipestem fragments that were sufficiently intact to allow me to measure the bore size (the diameter of the hole through which the smoker drew smoke from the pipe bowl). For about half a century archaeologists have been aware that the diameter of that hole diminished from the 17th through early 18th centuries, a necessary accommodation to the increased length of pipes. Jean Harrington was the first to have quantified this trend and Lewis Binford developed a statistical formula (not unlike that with which the Internal Revenue Service calculates depreciation) with which to generate mean dates. These dates, while they do not indicate the range of occupation, identify a central date...the middle of the site's occupation. Binford's formula was in large measure supplanted by Lee Hanson's in 1971. Hanson chopped up Binford's formula into several formulas covering shorter periods.

Using Binford's formula, the pipestems produced a mean date of 1723. Hanson's yielded a date of 1712. Both dates are earlier than the 1727 act of the General Assembly that established the Charles County seat of Charles Town (colloquially and, later officially, Port Tobacco).

It would be inaccurate to say that we found Chandler's Town this past week. In all likelihood, we have been finding manifestations of it since the project started last summer; but the large amount of later material elsewhere has masked the earlier occupation. It is fair to say, I think, that we have caught the first clear glimpse of one part of Chandler's Town.


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