Saturday, July 5, 2008

Native American Area Video

If you like the videos, take a moment to rate them over on YouTube to help others find them.



Friday, July 4, 2008

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Jailhouse Video

I've begun putting together some short videos about our work at Port Tobacco using photographs and videos from the ASM field session. This is a new frontier for us so please give us some feedback.

The first video made is below. There are three done and posted on our new You Tube channel and I'd like to think each one is a little better than the last.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Field Session Finds

So we have done our excavation, washing and cataloging of artifacts is ongoing, and now the analysis and report writing can start to take shape. Probably one of the least known aspects of this process is the photographing of artifacts for not only the report but also for presentations and lectures. Today I am spending the day trying different techniques with my digital camera to get some pictures of artifacts to use in our final report and also for a slide show presentation this weekend. Below you will see some of the photographs I have taken so far. There will be more to come.

Glass tableware stem pieces recovered from Unit 11 in the "Native American" site.

Aboriginal pottery found in Unit 11 in the "Native American" site.

North Italian slipware, Chinese porcelain, and Combed slipware from Unit 5 in the "Native American" site.

Trade bead found in Unit 13 in the "Centennial Hotel" site.

I am using a Sony "point and shoot" digital camera with an optical and digital zoom along with a photo box in a well lit area to get a close enough and detailed picture of the artifacts. I will post more of our photographic collection as we start to do more detailed analysis of the field session.

Iam heading to NY today to celebrate the 4th of July and my grandmother's 90th Birthday. I hope everyone has a great holiday weekend.

Remember, Tuesdays and Thursdays in the lab at the Maryland Historical Trust for artifact cleaning and cataloging.


Tuesday, July 1, 2008


The the ASM Field session is over and it's nice to look back at some of the shots of the crew and volunteers. I have some pretty neat pictures on my camera and I know that Pete and April have many as well. I just hope Pete doesn't post the pictures of me threatening our intern Steve as well as Steve Israel. Below are a few shots for your enjoyment:

Here, April tells Jim and Dio what is going on.

During the evening relax time, Franny and April engage as do Dio and Pete.

Jim, April, and Dio discuss findings with some volunteers. Unknown homeless person resting on bucket.

Monday, June 30, 2008

South Field Sites

Last week Pete finished mapping all of the artifacts that we recovered in the field immediately north of Warehouse Landing Point (see below). As we noted in previous postings, this field yielded two historic sites, both pre-Revolutionary War and probably pre-Port Tobacco (late 17th/early 18th centuries; Chandler's Town). Those two sites are encircled in red towards the bottom of the map.

Map of South Field artifact locations. The Colonial Period sites are encircled in red, the prehistoric sites in blue.

We also identified at least four prehistoric sites (encircled in blue). The three southernmost are extensive and likely represent a series of repeated occupations, possibly seasonally with the same group or related groups returning to the site each year as part of a seasonal round.

We also found a scatter of late historic artifacts (whiteware and bottle glass) along the eastern edge of the field. These may be remnants of late 19th-/early 20th-century dwelling sites that were destroyed by road construction.

There is lots more to report on the sites in the south field, but we are still working on it. Pete and Stevenson University intern Kevin McCall are cataloguing the collections and we still have to prepare the contour maps and apply to the Maryland Historical Trust for site numbers. Hopefully all of that will be done by week's end and we can start assembling the report next week. It is during the report writing phase that we 'dig' deeper into the details of each of the sites identified during the field survey and interpret those findings in terms of the general development of Port Tobacco and the river valley.


Sunday, June 29, 2008

What These Bones Can Tell Us

At the risk of beating this subject to death (who didn't see that pun coming?), I thought I would say a few words about what we might expect human remains to look like and what we might learn from them if we did exhume them.

At Patuxent Point, we recovered the remains of 18 individuals prior to the destruction of the site by construction. The bones were in good to excellent condition...that isn't the case at every site, especially for remains interred in acidic piedmont clays. Grave 15, excavated and recorded by Dennis Pogue of Mount Vernon, appears below. Douglass Ubelaker of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, examined and reported on all of the skeletons that we had recovered.

Grave 15 was one of the Cluster 2 graves, a scatter of three isolated graves oriented more or less north-south. The individual in Grave 15 was a female, aged between 26 and 33, about 5'-4" to 5'-6" tall, and probably of European ancestry. She had excellent teeth, exhibiting neither decay nor enamel erosion from smoking a clay pipe. There was some sign of nutritional stress earlier in her life and she had just begun to suffer from arthritis. No coffin was present, only brass shroud pins.

A possible reason for her burial apart from the others presented itself while Dennis was excavating her remains. In the pelvic area he uncovered some small, poorly developed bones. We puzzled over these only for a moment before realizing that the bones were those of a fetus. The young woman likely died in childbirth or possibly from complications just before parturition.

Because the documentation of the succession of households that occupied the site is far from complete, we cannot deduce who this young woman was; nor can we identify any of the other 17 individuals. More complete documentation, possibly coupled with DNA analyses, potentially could allow the identification of the people interred at Patuxent Point, or at any other small household or community cemetery. That information could resurrect the identities of these people and greatly enrich stories of their lives.


PS. Douglass Owsley, also of the Smithsonian Institution, is developing an exhibition around the Patuxent Point remains and those of other Colonists excavated by archaeologists in the Chesapeake Bay region. I think the planned opening date is in November of this year.