Tuesday, December 2, 2008

What's in a Name?

When we planned the June 2008 campaign, April and I found it expedient to name each of the loci that we expected to test with the help of the Archeological Society of Maryland. The putative site of the county jail, naturally, became the Jailhouse Locus. The area in which we thought our shovel tests hit two graves we dubbed the Cemetery Locus. The problem with such names, of course, is that people occupied Port Tobacco for millennia, leaving behind deposits that overlapped with those of their predecessors and successors.

At none of the loci tested this past June is this situation clearer than at the so-called Aboriginal Locus. We selected this area for testing because we had some questions about sedimentation and wanted to look at the problem with the entire span of human occupation in view. also, this locus provided a perfect opportunity to satisfy the interests of some of our volunteers who wanted to work on prehistoric deposits. As I have noted in my recent postings about the Aboriginal Locus, this is a rich area for aboriginal artifacts, and it is just as rich for early historic artifacts. As an example, we recovered 208 fragments of tobacco pipes that have measurable bore diameters. Using a technique identical to that applied to the South Field survey (the field just above Warehouse Point), I calculated a mean date for the plowzone (Strata 1 & 2) at the aboriginal locus.

Depending on the formula used, I got two dates: 1729 (Binford formula) and 1716 (Hanson formula). These are, of course, mean dates and reveal nothing of how much earlier and how much later the locus was occupied. (Thousands of ceramic sherds recovered from those same deposits will help define the range of occupation.) One point I'm making here is that we recovered a statistically significant sample from the plowzone of only seven units. The other point is that 'Aboriginal Locus,' as a name, doesn't cut it. April: We need to devise another way of denominating loci at Port Tobacco!

By the way, those pipestem bore diameters mirror the distribution noted for the South Field and for a number of other very late 17th and first quarter of the 18th century sites in Southern Maryland, as the graph below illustrates.


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