Saturday, December 6, 2008

Tyler Bastian Annual Field Session in Archeology

This morning I attended the quarterly meeting of the board of trustees of the Archeological Society of Maryland. The Society has elected to hold the 2009 field session--11 days of fun in the sun-- at Port Tobacco in May. The team has a great deal of planning to do and their are many details to address. We will keep our readers abreast of all significant developments. Now is the time to think about participating.

Plan also on attending the MHT Workshop on March 7 and the ASM Spring Symposium, probably on April 4. We will also hold one or two CAT workshops (to which all are invited, but seating is limited and preference goes to CAT candidates and then ASM members) in advance of the field session.

There was no posting yesterday...I was on the road all day.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Report Update

The report on the ASM Field Session is done. Jim put the finishing touches on it today and will present it down at Port Tobacco on Wednesday December 17th at 7:30pm at the Courthouse.

More to come later...

Jim is plenty busy tonight and tomorrow with presentations and meetings and I will be presenting our findings to the Council for Maryland Archaeology tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Nail review

Pete and I spent a few hours re-visiting the nails from several contexts at Port Tobacco. I was struck by the fact that, while analyzing the data from the cemetery area, that we recovered 122 nails from three units, but not one nail could be identified as to type (viz., handwrought, machine-cut, or wire).

All of the nails proved, in fact, to be unidentifiable...they were too badly preserved to permit us to distinguish types. My guess is that they are all handwrought nails and relate to a nearby building.

We also took a second look at the nails from the Jail Locus. Most of those nails were machine-cut (post 1840s), and a few were wire nails (post-1885). That accords well with our suspicion that what we found were the foundations of the 1859 jail and not either of its predecessors, the 1728 and 1811 structures. The later wire nails likely were left by Clayton Rice, a local character who added on to the jail house in the 20th century, living there after abandoning his 'shack' in front of the courthouse ruin.

Anyway, this sort of analysis is one of the reasons for asking our volunteers to collect all of those nasty bits of iron from the screens...they have research value.


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.


Monday, December 1, 2008

Another View on John Hanson's Whereabouts

The note below was posted the other day as a comment on a post about John Hanson that we ran on October 14. Rather than let it get lost in the distant past of our blog, I've elected to reproduce it here. I'll get back to our findings in the Aboriginal Locus of Port Tobacco tomorrow.


From Peter Hanson Michael

Certainly a primary cause of the nation's faded memory of John Hanson is that the location of his grave is unknown. Unlike Washington’s much visited tomb at Mount Vernon, there is no grave known today for the nation to visit to pay its respects to John Hanson.

John Hanson died at the home of his nephew Thomas Hanson at Oxon Hill, Prince George's County, Maryland, November 22, 1783, a year after completing his term as president of the United States. He would have been buried in one of three places: there at Oxon Hill Manor, 21 miles away in his family cemetery at his ancestral home at Mulberry Grove, or 95 miles away in Frederick, his home at the time of his death. Rumors and one or two unsubstantiated written claims have existed since the time of his death that Hanson was buried at his nephew's estate, a practice not uncommon at the time. For example, Harry Newman wrote in his 1940 book on Hanson that, “He [John Hanson] was interred in the ancient burying ground of the Addison family at Oxon Hill,” but Newman does not cite a source for this. The Addisons were relatives by marriage of the Hansons but I have not been able to determine what relationship they might have had to Thomas Hanson of Oxon Hill Manor. When several old burial tablets were uncovered in the estate's graveyard in the 1990s, it was theorized that one of these could be John Hanson's.

A stronger clue would be the grave of Hanson's wife, Jane Contee Hanson, which is at Mulberry Grove. When Jane died in Frederick in 1812, 29 years after her husband and having outlived all of her twelve children, her body was transported the 95 miles to Mulberry Grove for burial. If she had directed that she be buried at Mulberry Grove rather than in the existing family plot in Frederick, it is very likely that she would have done so to be buried beside her husband. There is a conspicuous unmarked sunken grave between hers and the graves of two Hanson children who died in infancy. But if the grave beside Jane's is that of John, why would it be unmarked?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

More on Aboriginal Locus

In finalizing the section of the latest Port Tobacco report on the 'Aboriginal Locus,' I was taken aback by the large number of artifacts recovered: 16,041 from seven 5 ft by 5 ft units. Of those, nearly 1100 are aboriginal and, as we've discussed in previous blogs, these appear, for the most part, to be late prehistoric and early historic. This is an amazingly rich area and I'll have more to say about it tomorrow as I look more closely at what we found.

And, as a brief follow up on yesterday's blog, interested readers should refer to the GAC website for more details on St. Nicholas cemetery: