Saturday, June 14, 2008

Field Session Day 1 and 2

It has been a busy two days! We had over 75 people on site today alone!

Our three excavation areas are all producing what we had hoped. Dio is
supervising the Wade House/Centennial Hotel are and we believe we have
a wall of the Wade House. Peter is supervising the Native American
artifact cluster which is producing lithics and Potomac Creek pottery
along with historic era ceramics from as early as 1650. Scott is
supervising the jailhouse area and thanks to the efforts of several
volunteers we think we found the foundation of it late this afternoon.

More to report tomorrow.

April M. Beisaw

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Moved In

It has been a long day but most of the staff is moved in at Port Tobacco. Jim's lovely wife brought us home cooked dinner and we had our own small fiesta feast of tacos. Thanks Bonnie!

We are heading out to procure more supplies before turning in.

April M. Beisaw

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

T minus 2 days and counting!

We at PTAP are working in overdrive to get ready for the field session that starts on Friday. Pete and I have been making trips down to Port Tobacco to set up the field office there and get the equipment in place. Once the staff get to the site we are there for the long haul (12 or 13 days) so the field office is doubling as living quarters. There will be a limited number of spots available for volunteers who may want to crash at the site for the night...if you are willing to rough it yet be respectful of your bunkmates and of the town's year-round residents. Sleeping bags and assorted camping equipment should be handed out with any archaeology degree.

Staying at Port Tobacco saves us the drive (and gas) but it also adds to the field experience. There is nothing like living at your site to help you understand the people you are studying through the artifacts they left behind. We will be barbequeing dinner before or after each evening's lecture/workshop/movie so there will be down time but we will stay focused on the main goal - to teach the public about archaeology, history, and Port Tobacco.

If the stress of living and working together gets to be too much, I have threatened to hold a disco night in the courthouse. I have some bad 80's dance music on my laptop...


Postscript from Jim: What, there's good 80s music?
Elsie provided this link to the latest newspaper article on the project: Port Tobacco field session will dig deep

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

British Brown Stoneware

Another of the very distinct 17th and 18th century artifacts we find at Port Tobacco is British Brown salt glazed stoneware. These vessels came in a variety of forms, most often as drinking mugs. In our shovel testing from last year, we found several sherds of this type, clearly indicating 18th century occupation. Nearly all Fulham-type stoneware found on American sites will date between ca. 1690 and 1775, except perhaps for areas occupied by the British during the Revolutionary War.

Drinking vessels and bottles were by far the most common Fulham-type stoneware forms. Mugs and tankards ranged in capacity from 0.25 pints to 2.5 quarts. Mugs could be globular, waisted, or straight sided, and some tankards had pouring lips. Jugs, puzzle jugs, jars, drug jars, bowls, and tea and coffee services were among the other forms produced. Early Fulham-type vessels copied German forms, but had moved away from this by the 18th century. These included the Bartmann-type bottles, which were made for only for a few years. In the 19th century, a wide variety of specialized forms were produced.

Older versions of this stoneware are evidenced by the Bellarmine or Bartmann jugs, one of which was recovered in excavations at Port Tobacco in the 1970’s. This mostly intact jug can be seen in the upstairs museum portion at the courthouse. The jugs can be characterized by the grotesque, bearded face, often confused with being Cardinal Bellarmine. The brown salt glazed pattern is also referred to as Tiger ware.

Like me, I imagine the EVERYONE has a favorite type of pottery or an artifact that is dear to them. I just love stoneware! I am also really excited about the upcoming field session at Port Tobacco. Since this is how I am spending my summer vacation, I look forward to lots of stoneware!

Monday, June 9, 2008

North Field Sites

For weeks we have blogged about our intensive work on the fields south of Port Tobacco. I have already summarized our findings for the middle of three fields and now offer a partial summary of our work in the north field. The artifact catalogue is not yet complete, but here is a composite map of the artifact distributions that Pete drafted and the topography based on the elevation data he finished entering last week.

The field is long and narrow because the floodplain between Chapel Point Road and the riverbank is narrow. The northern portion of the field is the most level.

The scale of the map, and even of the detail to the right, is such as to make identifying individual pieces with a key or legend impractical. The best way to show that level of information would be to post a series of maps showing the distributions of individual categories (e.g., oyster shell, Creamware). I've simplified matters by drawing ellipses around concentrations of like material.

We have an indisputable 18th-century site in the northwest corner characterized by lots of White Salt-Glazed Stoneware, Tin-Glazed Earthenware, and Creamware. It lies in the midst of a large prehistoric Indian site, the details of which we will supply once we've had a chance to catalogue and analyze the artifacts. In the extreme southeast of the field Pete and Elsie found several pieces of White Salt-Glazed Stoneware and Wine Bottle glass indicating another 18th-century site.

There is a long scatter of brick extending down the east side of the field. It is densest in an area directly east of the northern 18th-century site and may represent another, albeit less well-defined, historic site. South of that cluster and extending up a steep knoll is a scatter of largely late historic artifacts (Whiteware ceramics, bottle glass) and oyster shell, along with a few possible pieces of flaked stone. This gravelly know likely is a recent outwash deposit from the uplands across Chapel Point Road.

I suspect that this gravelly sediment is hiding one of more archaeological sites...the deposit may be so thick as to protect those deposits from plowing. The only way to test this hypothesis is to dig deep shovel tests like those with which we tested the core of the townsite last year. This locus and the northeast corner of the south field and southeast corner of the middle field might be the only portions of the fields where surface collecting may prove inadequate and deeper testing may be necessary.

One of us will provide additional details on these sites once the catalogue and artifact analysis have been completed and, of course, we will be issuing a detailed technical report on the entire field collecting project before summer's end. First we have to complete the mapping and cataloguing the south field data which probably exceed the combined data from the north and middle fields by a factor of two.

Stay tuned.


Sunday, June 8, 2008

Annapolis Charter 300 Symposium

I spent an enjoyable day Saturday with colleagues from the University of Maryland, the New York State Museum, the Annapolis History Consortium, and others. We discussed a wide range of subjects, not all of which were directly related to the 300th anniversary of the issuance of the City charter.

In my presentation, I tried to look at Annapolis archaeology from outside of the city; in fact, from the perspective of Port Tobacco. How do you systematically investigate the archaeology of an urban area covered in buildings, roads, and parking lots? Port Tobacco is easy by comparison: there are few buildings and lots of mowed lawns and fields. Also, how can an archaeologist avoid becoming insular, so focused on the urban area as to neglect the surrounding suburbs and rural areas that both support, and are supported by, the town? Again, Port Tobacco has a wealth of surrounding sites, including the homes of some of Maryland's most influential families of the Colonial and Early Republic periods, and we have made some progress in identifying and studying outlying sites through the controlled surface collection of the Edelen family fields south of town. Finally, when we have maps, photographs, and surviving buildings, what can we hope to learn through the relatively expensive and generally back-breaking work of archaeology? Despite extensive literatures for both communities, we know relatively little about the daily lives of their non-elite residents, the formation of neighborhoods, and the disruption of their respective environments by urban development.

I offered some suggestions for the City of Annapolis, but the phrase 'Port Tobacco' could substitute for that of 'Annapolis' in any point of my discussion.

Here are two of my recommendations for the City that I once served as consulting archaeologist:
1. Support year-round archaeology to enlarge our knowledge of the town and to promote public participation in the research. Archaeology in Annapolis, the brain-child of preservationist St. Clair Wright and University of Maryland professor Mark Leone, has conducted archaeological investigations in Annapolis for the last 25 years. Much of that work has been undertaken by the University's field school in archaeology several weeks each summer. I'd like to see that work supplemented by a weekend or two each month of professionally supervised, question-oriented, publicly accessible archaeology.

2. Enact legislation that extends the archaeological review of all development projects beyond the confines of the designated historic district to the entire city, including those lands recently annexed from the surrounding county; lands that were subject to the county's review process prior to annexation. This will give archaeologists the opportunity to identify and investigate important archaeological sites before they are destroyed or rendered inaccessible for research.