Who we are

The Lost Towns Project is a team of professional archaeologists and historians, working closely with the government of Anne Arundel County, Maryland to discover and explore the County's rich heritage. The team is committed to sharing the discovery process of this incredible heritage with the public through hands-on experiences, publications, lectures, and exhibits. In this blog, we will share some of our exciting discoveries, updates, and events. Check out our website at www.losttownsproject.org for much more, or to learn how to become a volunteer or intern! No experience is required to assist us in field investigations, laboratory studies, archival research, and interpretive programs. Join us to rediscover the History in your own backyards!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Middle Woodland III Report Finished!

Written by staff member Stephanie Sperling:

As many of you know, I've spent the better part of 2011 working on the final report for the Pig Point site.  I'm happy to say that the report is finished and has been sent to the Maryland Historical Trust (our grantor) for comments.  Thank you to everyone who helped!  I couldn't have completed it without you.  Thanks especially to volunteer Pat Melville who put together the most comprehensive historical summary of Pig Point ever written.  Pat worked for the Maryland Archives for many years, and I am so grateful that she used her extensive research skills to summarize countless land records, wills, and court proceedings into an accessible narrative.  Thank you!  

While the Town period of Pig Point lasted for nearly 300 years, our excavations have centered on the thousands of years of prehistoric occupation (or the Native American occupation that happened before contact with Europeans).  That was also the main focus of my report.  Based on the artifact assemblage and the seven feet (!) of intact stratigraphy, we can certainly state that people have been living at Pig Point for about 10,000 years.  Incredible!  Anyone is welcome to read the report, but for those of you without the time for a 200+ page document, I'll sum up a few of the more interesting points here.

A reconstruction of a Woodland period house at Pig Point

First, I should say that nearly every prehistoric period in the mid-Atlantic region is well represented at Pig Point.  Archaeologists break down the millennia of prehistoric time into different periods based on changing artifacts and lifeways.  For example, the Archaic period extends from about 7500 B.C. – 1000 B.C. and was a time of hunting and gathering after the last Ice Age.  People adapted to a changing climate by utilizing every part of the landscape during different seasons, and gradually they became more sedentary.  Thousands of projectile points and stone tools were left behind that tell us about the different activities taking place during this long time period.  The appearance of clay pottery marks the beginning of the Woodland period (from 1000 B.C. – A.D. 1650), when people settled down for much of the year in base camps or villages.  Eventually, agriculture developed and the villages became larger as the population grew.

Excavation of the 8,000 year old pits found
beneath the Woodland midden

Pig Point saw heavy occupation during both the Archaic and the Woodland periods.  It has always been an appealing place to live!  The rich resources of Jug Bay can still be harvested all year long (fish and shellfish, mammals and birds, marsh plants and nearby forest species), and countless freshwater springs provide a constant source of drinking water.  Last year, we excavated several features that informed us about what people were eating over the millennia.  For instance, we found two hearths dating to over 8,000 years ago that still contained hickory nut shells and white perch scales.  The charcoal found in these ancient firepits was successfully radiocarbon dated, producing the oldest dates ever in Anne Arundel County!  We also excavated more of the remarkable Woodland period midden (or an area of cooking and working stratified over 3,000 years), where we found tens of thousands of bones and shells from dozens of species.  We now know that by about A.D. 1200, the people of Pig Point were growing corn to supplement their diets.

A selection of artifacts from Pig Point: From top to bottom - Woodland period pot sherd; Projectile points made of non-local stone; a selection of bone tools; three incised gorgets

We have found over 200,000 artifacts from the site, ranging from animal bones to projectile points to beautifully decorated pottery, pipes, and adornments.  Some of the bones were worked into tools used for needles or soft hammers or were used for adornments (like canine teeth with holes drilled for necklaces).  The projectile points span 10,000 years and are made of both local and exotic stone (like Ohio chalcedony and Pennsylvania jasper).  Some of the clay pot sherds have exquisite decoration, as do several of the pipe fragments.  And a number of gorget fragments (a type of rectangular stone pendant) were marked with geometric lines by someone thousands of years ago.

If you would like to know more about the Pig Point site, please contact us and we’ll be happy to share more of our remarkable findings.  But the best way to learn about the site is to volunteer in the field or the lab.  We’re back in the field every Tuesday and Friday, come out to this beautiful site and join us sometime!


I love getting dirty in a feature!

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