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!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

"Oh my gosh, your Gorget!"

Wow, it's been a while since we've posted a blog!  We've been working like crazy this summer with our summer interns and volunteers at Pig Point and London Town discovering all sorts of new information about our local history.  At London Town, we're working on finding out as much as we can about the footprint of Rumney's Tavern while also looking for the associated out buildings (like the kitchen or stables).  London Town plans to re-construct Rumney's once the Carpenter's Shop is finished, which will be really exciting! 

Pig Point continues to amaze us with it's artifacts and features.  Just yesterday, our staffer Stacy found a beautiful (and complete!) banded slate gorget or pendent!  The material most likely comes from Ohio, which demonstrates the connections between Pig Point and the Ohio River valley that must have been in place about 2,000 years ago. 

In case you're itching to get your hands dirty with history, we'll be having our last Public Dig Day of the summer at London Town on Saturday, August 4th from 9am until 2pm.  It's a free, all ages event!  Hope you can make it!

Stay Cool!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Lost Towns family volunteer programs featured in local magazine!

The Lost Towns Project's family archaeology opportunities are currently featured in April's issue of the Chesapeake Family Magazine.  The article, Digging into Maryland's past, highlights the ways that parents can help get their kids into history--by getting their hands dirty! 

Lost Towns archaeologist, Jessie Grow, is also featured in the article because her interest in her chosen career was fueled by experiences featured in the article.  Specifically, such experiences include the upcoming Dig Day that Lost Towns will be hosting at London Town and Gardens.

The article in this month comes in time for Maryland's Archaeology Month.  The opportunities that are featured extend beyond the month of April and include contact information.

If you are interested in bringing in your family to volunteer, we have more information at our website: http://losttownsproject.org/signupvolunteer.htm.  You can contact Jessie, also the volunteer coordinator, by e-mail (volunteers@losttownsprojects.org) or phone (410-222-1318).

Internships are also available for high school students and university students.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Intern Research Reveals Artifact Date

Today's blog comes to us from high school intern Xanthia Strohl.  She researched a knife found at a post-Civil War African American site in Galesville.  Wonderful work!

J. Russell Pearl Handled Knife
Example of J. Russell & Co. Knife in Pristine Condition 
Our knife, found in the Wilson House

Close-up of Stamp
This 1834 pearl handled knife was found in the Wilson House, a historic site structure built in 1871 by Henry Wilson, an emancipated slave (Galesville, Anne Arundel County, MD). This knife is important in the history of J. Russell’s business because this was made the year before J. Russell started making butcher’s knives and had ‘J.Russell & Co American Cutlery’ stamped on them.
In 1834 J. Russell decided that he had enough experience to start manufacturing knives (the same year that is stamped on our knife). Then J. Russell & Co. had a devastating fire on March 15, 1836 in his forging workshop. He was given insurance money to repair the damage. He had a major flood during the repairs that caused his buildings to wash away with his supplies for which his insurance did not completely cover. 

A wealthy man name Henry Clapp, owner of Green River Works, provided $10,000 to rebuild the forge, everything within his forge, rebuild the damn, and the bridge that had been there before. In return, ‘J. Russell & Co.’ became ‘J. Russell & Co. Green River Works’.

By process of elimination, we know that he started making cutlery knives in 1834; our knife has a date of 1834 stamped in with J. Russell & Co. This gives us a date ranging from J. Russell making cutlery knives in 1834, to his business’s name change in 1836 when it became J. Russell & Co. Green River Work’. So, our make date for this knife is between 1834-1836.

I have made an educated guess that because it has the date 1834 stamped on it and his business name changed two years after in 1836 that is probably accurate.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sewing Through Time Exhibit Now Open!!

In the Fall of 2011 Lost Towns Project applied and received a mini-grant from the Four Rivers Heritage Area to design and install an exhibit entitled Sewing Through Time: the Archaeology of Clothing and Textiles.  This was my brainchild, and it has taken over my life until March 24th when it finally opened!  It is located at the Historic Annapolis Museum in downtown Annapolis, and will be on display for 9 months.

The exhibit explores the history of sewing in early America as evident through the artifact collection of the Lost Towns Project.  The artifacts on display include thimbles, bone needle cases, hook-and-eyes, curtain rings, lead seals, buckles, scissors, buttons, and other sewing related items.  It also displays the evidence of prehistoric sewing at Pig Point: bone awls and pottery sherds with cord, net, and fabric impressions.  We also included historical documents and paintings to help illustrate the importance of clothing in early America.  Our resident artist (and dedicated volunteer), Barry Gay contributed six of his own paintings, which are beautiful!

Stephanie and Sam helped me install.

Considering it was my very first museum exhibit ever, I am amazed at how much I learned.   Not only about the artifacts in the exhibit, but also about how to design and install an exhibit and how quickly what seems like a huge space (20 x 13 feet) fills up with tiny artifacts and a few lines of text.  I had a HUGE team of helpers with this exhibit, and there is no way I could have done it without them!

I hope sometime in the next nine months you can find some time to check it out!  Send us a comment about what you think!  Here are the details:

Sewing Through Time: The Archaeology of Clothing and Textiles
The Historic Annapolis Museum
99 Main Street, Annapolis, MD
Monday - Saturday: 10am - 5pm
Sunday: 11am - 5pm

Friday, February 3, 2012

New Study of Prehistoric Sites along the Patuxent River

Today's blog comes to us from recent intern, Stacy Poulos.  Stacy has been helping us assemble data for our new grant studying the prehistory of the Patuxent River drainage.  Since she did such a great job during her internship, we decided we couldn't let her go and hired her to assist our architectural historian, Darian Schwab.  Welcome aboard, Stacy!

As many archaeologically-inclined friends of Lost Towns know, the Project has been delving deep into the prehistoric past of Maryland. The stratigraphy of Pig Point is redefining our understanding of prehistoric chronology, while the Middle Woodland study of the past few years has illuminated the richness of Anne Arundel County’s prehistoric heritage. Past studies show that one of Maryland’s main arteries of prehistoric civilization and trade is along the Patuxent River. With a grant from the Maryland Historical Trust, the Lost Towns Project is creating a spatial database of prehistoric settlements in the Patuxent watershed that will enable us to approach questions about environmental choices, artifact distributions, trade networks, and the spatial relationship of different kinds of sites. Furthermore, such a Geographic Information System will allow us to determine which sites warrant further study or need preservation efforts.

We are not restricting our study to the Anne Arundel County side of the Patuxent drainage. In order to get a more complete representation of the area, we are jumping over county boundaries and incorporating a number of Prince Georges County sites as well. In Anne Arundel County alone, there are 198 prehistoric sites along the Patuxent drainage! Out of a large pool of recorded sites from both counties, we have selected about 10 sites to be included in the database.

Our research into our first test case brought home the fact that further study often leads to further questions about the past – not just the past from thousands of years ago, but the past from just 50 years ago! To gather information about each site, we have to revisit the previous studies that were conducted. Our first test case revealed that an excavation from 1968 had left behind no records and the artifacts were missing! As we hunted through old letters, avocational archaeologists’ notebooks, donated collections, county storage, and the Maryland Archaeological Conservancy, it became clear that we also need to do archaeology of past archaeological research. This study is revealing not only the rich prehistoric past of Maryland, but the oral traditions and networks among past archaeologists. As we continue forward with the project, we are excited to find more about our prehistoric and our recent past.

Stacy created this map to show the Patuxent drainage and the sites we are studying for the new grant 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Conservation of Artifacts

Today's blog was written by our recent intern, Alex, who just completed his hours.  Alex was very interested in learning conservation in the lab, and Shawn taught him how to conserve metal, glass, and bone.  The scissors he refers to in this post will likely be part of a new exhibit highlighting the archaeology of sewing in Anne Arundel County.  Our own Jessie Grow is designing this exhibit.  Maybe we can get her to blog about it soon!

I worked on conservation in the Lost Towns Project lab, in which I conserved artifacts from sites excavated. I performed conservation treatments on these artifacts and also worked on the conservation database. I performed conservation on these artifacts to prevent them from breaking down further and kept a log of such treatments in the database. Conservation treatments vary depending on the type of artifact being conserved and the level of break-down that has occurred. Some of the artifacts that are most frequently conserved include metal, glass, and bone specimens.

The main artifact that I have been conserving and restoring is a pair of scissors from the Swan Cove site in Anne Arundel County, MD. I treated the scissors with air-abrasion to remove the corrosion from them and to prevent them from further breaking down. I used a number of different rotary tools in order to remove the corrosion from the entire area of the scissors. I also conserved and restored the decorative markings on the scissors. I then applied tannic-acid to the entire surface of the scissors to prevent them from breaking down further in the future. The use of air-abrasion and tannic-acid conserved the scissors and helped restore them back to their original form.
The Swan Cove scissors before conservation

The Swan Cove scissors after conservation