Saturday, June 7, 2008

Back to Port Tobacco

It seems like it has been years since my last trip down to Maryland! My last 7 weeks have been jam packed. As you know, I spent all of May as a Scholar in Residence at the Pennsylvania State Museum. Not long before heading down to Harrisburg I was offered, and accepted, a Visiting Assistant Professor position at Heidelberg College in Ohio. So, once I finished up in Harrisburg I had to fit in a house-hunting trip to Tiffin before getting back to Port Tobacco and starting the ASM field session.

I spent much of yesterday putting together the materials for the faunal workshop that we are offering on Friday, the 20th. The workshop will be 2 hours of the basics of identifying animal bone from archaeological sites. I have handouts, a Power Point presentation, and several boxes of bone material. It will be very hands-on as that is the only way to learn bones! The workshop is free so come on down! It also meets the requirements of Maryland's Certified Archeological Technician program, so if you are a CAT candidate you wont want to miss it!

Jim will be leading two other workshops during the field session, one of ethics and one on historic ceramics. I will probably contribute some opinions to the ethics workshop but Jim is such an expert on the ceramics that I will leave that one to him! Bones, on the other hand, are my specialty so Jim gets some time off during that one.

My car is already half packed with supplies and I don't leave till Monday!


P.S. I would like to meet as many of the blog readers as possible during the field session. So if you come down, even if only to watch and take a tour, take a minute to say hi to me and the rest of the crew!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Back on Track

We are back in the office today after the storms knocked us out for a little while. As Jim prepares for the Annapolis City 300 presentations tomorrow at St. John's College in Annapolis, I am working on updating our database and maps from the field surveys we did just south of Port Tobacco.

I have finished the north and middle fields and am now working on the south fields. For those of you who haven't done it, data entry is long and tedious. However, once you look at the maps created by all of this entry, the sites really start to take on a different look than just a bunch of orange flags everywhere! Concentrations of artifacts start popping up that you don't remember seeing out in the field.

The weekend is almost here and with the field session looming, there is much to do. April will be down on Monday and is staying through the field session. I'm sure we (April and Jim that is) will be sitting down on Monday to go over our plans once again to make sure we are fully prepared for our work in Port Tobacco.

- Peter

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Temporary Move of Headquarters

At 3:30PM yesterday (Wednesday), a series of closely spaced, violent thunderstorms skated across northern Virginia and Maryland. They continued to harass both states for about six hours. In the aftermath, many communities--mine included--lost power. My cellar is flooded and the power company estimates restoration of electricity by 6:30PM Friday. April was due to arrive in town this evening, but I've waived her point in having one more person sit in the dark.

I have decamped to the library of the Anne Arundel Community College where I will continue making preparations for the June 13-23 Archeological Society of Maryland field session. I'm working on the field and laboratory manual now.

The operation will move back to my house this weekend and then, gradually, to the Burch House at Port Tobacco. Also called Catslide House, the Burch House will serve as field office throughout the rest of the summer, first as we undertake the field session, then as we begin to explore the Civil War period of the town.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Calendar Updated

The field session is fast approaching! For an easy reference to our field session schedule, check the Port Tobacco calendar. The link is at the top of the left hand column of this blog.


And from Jim:
Welcome back April.
Last night I attended the last meeting for the year of the Charles County Historical Trust. The Trust awarded the Society for the Restoration of Port Tobacco $500 toward a project that we call, Virtual Access to the Historic Town of Port Tobacco. The grant will help underwrite our development of a website for the Society that will communicate to the broadest possible audience late breaking findings, announcement of events, and virtual access to properties that are not physically open to the public. Thank you CCHT!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

More on Stoneware

One of the very distinct 17th and 18th century artifacts we find at Port Tobacco (and now Chandler’s Town?) is gray salt glazed stoneware called Westerwald or Rhenish. These vessels came in a variety of forms, most often as drinking mugs. Jim mentioned in a previous blog about finding several sherds of this type in a field south of the courthouse and may have been indicative of a tavern site.

Drinking vessels were imported, as were simple lozenge-shaped mineral water bottles in the 18th and 19th centuries. A variety of Rhenish blue and gray stoneware vessel forms are found on American archaeological sites. Elaborate panel bottles occur on some of the earliest sites. Tankards and mugs were introduced after ca. 1650. Chamber pots became popular at the beginning of the 18th century, and along with mugs, tankards, pitchers, and jugs are the most common form on Chesapeake sites. By the mid-18th century, the rise of English refined earthenware and molded white salt-glazed stoneware led to a decline in the popularity of Westerwald-type tablewares among wealthy Chesapeake households, but storage and sanitary vessels were still used.

In their original form, the drinking mugs were often fitted with pewter lids that were operated with the thumb. Finding these lids intact today is rare as the lids could easily be removed and the metal sold during tough economic times. The mugs that did have the lids are recognized by the hole left in the top portion of the handle.

A popular style in the 18th century was the “GR” incised mugs. Named for Kings George (George Rex) I, II, or III, they were imported to England and then to the American colonies. A variation is the “AR” mugs named for Queen Anne (Anne Regina).

Monday, June 2, 2008

Midlands Yellow Earthenware

Jim noted last week that we found one piece of Midlands Yellow Earthenware on a slight rise in the southwest corner of the southern most field during our surveys. From my research so far, I have not come up with a very good description of this type of ceramic and no pictures of it. So, I am going to do my best to share with you what I do know about this particular ceramic.

Midlands Yellow is a late 17th and very early 18th Century earthenware out of England. It has been found on several Chesapeake area sites dating to the late 17th Century. At the King's Reach site excavted by Dennis Pogue, 17% of the ceramics recovered were Midlands Yellow.

A problematic identification, these varied vessels may have been made in the midland counties of England. Thinly to moderately thickly potted, the pastes are soft to moderately soft , sandy pinkish white to pink to very pale brown pastes with some small ochre inclusions. The glaze is Pale yellow to various shades of green, extensively crazed lead interiors and possible interiors. It is very similar to the yellow border wares that are found on Colonial sites in the Chesapeake so like always, a close examination of your finds is very important.

We are in the office the rest of this week working on the analysis for the surface collections at Port Tobacco as well as finishing reports on a few other projects. Just over a week until our field session starts so if you haven't already done so...sign up and come out and join us for 2 weeks of fun in the sun!


Sunday, June 1, 2008

Looking Closer: 300 Years of Annapolis History

Next Friday and Saturday, June 6 and 7, The City of Annapolis will celebrate the tricentennial of its charter in a symposium on the City's history and archaeology. I'll be speaking on Saturday afternoon, using our Port Tobacco research to better understand the research accomplishments and challenges of Maryland's capital city.

For details on the symposium, see: