Saturday, May 24, 2008

Archaeological Society

On May 13, the Charles County Archaeological Society became an institution when it voted in six officers: Paula Martino, president; Carol Cowherd, vice-president; Jane Keller, treasurer; Belinda Urquiza, secretary; Elsie Picyk and Gary Frick, at-large board members.

Today, the board of the Archeological Society of Maryland accepted our petition to be a chapter in the Society.

Also at the board meeting I learned that we have quite a few people registered to participate in the field session at Port Tobacco, June 13 through 23. As I recall, there are between nine and twenty-one registrants for each of those 11 days.

To prepare, we could use a few things...just loans:
(1) Microwave, hotplate, outdoor grill and any other camp-type cooking equipment.
(2) Ice chests.
(3) Some sturdy chairs and tables for use in the Burch House.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Pluggin Away

How large is a 40-acre field? Look at the picture. That shows one third of it, and it isn't even the part with most of the artifacts. I took the picture this past weekend (hence the gloomy sky). The corn is only a few inches high and I have both witnessed and performed some remarkable pirouettes and other dance moves to avoid stomping on a corn plant.

Pete, Elsie and me continued with flagging, mapping, and collecting. We continue to better define the early 18th-century site while identifying and identifying new aboriginal sites, primarily dating to the Late Archaic period.

I anticipate another two days in the field and another two days cataloguing. Artifact washing is up to date.

We should return the middle of next week...we have some other projects over the weekend.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

North Field Completed

Pete and Elsie completed the survey of the north field (that just south of Port Tobacco). At the south end they found traces of yet another 18th-century site.

Fears that I had for all of the fields came true for the south half of the north field: the same gravelly deposits that cover much of Port Tobacco appear to have covered this portion of the north field. Surface collecting the plowed soils, therefore, probably has not given us a true representation of what lies below. We found scatters of brick and some wine bottle glass indicative of a relatively early site, but the objects do not cluster. I suspect that the plow barely touched the buried deposits. Perhaps in the future we can go back and employ the same close-interval shovel testing strategy that we used throughout Port Tobacco.

Tomorrow we go back to the south field. It could take us two days to finish.


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.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Since Peter graced us with a short lesson on Buckleyware yesterday, I thought I would address another artifact we are finding lots of: bottle glass.

While finding intact bottles are Port Tobacco may be difficult, we are finding intact pontil (base) pieces and bottle necks. In the field, this dark green glass (almost black) is fairly easy to identify, but I thought it would be nice for our readers to see what these bottles looked like when whole.

The above is an English mallet and dates from about 1720 to 1750. Certainly, we are finding pieces of this style.

This pictures shows the pontil or base portion. These bottles were all hand blown with a tube attached to the base while the glass was still molten. Once formed, the tube was broken off and the scar left behind was sometimes sanded smooth. Earlier onion style bottles were not smoth and left a jagged pontil scar. Yes, they can still cut you!

Just prior to the American Revolution, bottles began to take on a more cylindrical appearance like the one shown above. This style was prominent until just prior to the Civil War.

The above bottle shows a new way of making bottles. While the molten glass was still blown by hand, it was blown into a mold of two or sometimes three sections. This is obvious by the seam lines that are visible along the sides or neck. The tops were always applied separately.

After about 1900, bottles were machine made and most were made from colorless glass. These are easily recognized by the seam running up the side all the way to the top of the bottle.

Perhaps we can find some of these bottles intact if we find ourselves excavating a cellar this summer. It's always exciting to find any artifact intact!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Lab Update

After a brief outing to another site, we came back to the office to catch up on the artifact analysis and mapping of the fields south of Port Tobacco. As Jim has mentioned, over the weekend we found a early 18th Century site. Today we have been washing and cataloging those artifacts. There is still more to wash but already today I have washed over 25 pieces of Buckley ware and 6 pieces of Staffordshire slipware! And these were just the small pieces that we found. I know that we found some larger pieces in the same area.

Way back in January I did a blog entry on Buckley ware. Here is a little refresher for you.

The Buckley ware is a lead glazed ware made of mixed red and yellow/white clay from the northwest region of England mainly near Wales and of course Buckley. The use of two clays tends to be more obvious on utilitarian pieces than on tablewares, which are more finely and completely mixed. The two different colored clays tend to give the paste a purplish look with swirling seen in the cross section. The Buckley wares are usually undecorated with a dark brown or black lead glaze. Some ribbing from manufacture can be seen on the exterior of the vessels. A red slip can usually be seen under the glaze. Most of the large utilitarian vessels also had very thick rims.

For more information including more pictures, please visit the Jefferson Patterson Park website at

More later this week on the finds from our latest field surveys in Port Tobacco!

- Peter

Sunday, May 18, 2008

More on Saturday's Finds

Despite intermittent rain, we made significant progress in defining the site that we found yesterday. There is a lot more of what we found yesterday and we did pick up a few sherds of white Salt Glazed stoneware. Still, no Creamware (after 1765) or later materials.

We also found more Late Archaic material mixed on with the colonial artifacts and several aboriginal pottery sherds and stone flakes farther east.

I expect we will return on Wednesday.

Stay tuned.