Archaeologists do dirty work of resurrecting past

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Photo by DARWIN WEIGEL. Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum assistant archaeologist Alex Glass works on uncovering a post hole for a building Sept. 18 at the Smith-St. Leonard site. The site near the Patuxent River was mainly occupied from 1711 to 1754 but shards of prehistoric pottery show up as well.

Summary from Archaeologists Do Dirty Work of Resurrecting Past

In Southern Maryland, one of the fasting growing areas in the region, archaeologists are often on a race against development to recovery the history of the region. Recently a 17th Century Indian settlement was discovered that archaeologists had been searching for almost eight decades. The Zekiah fort settlement was established in 1680 by the third Lord Baltimore Gov. Charles Calvert at his Zekiah Manor estate. Calvert moved approximately 320 of the Piscataway, with who he had a treaty, from their home to his estate. The Piscataway remained their for 12 years before seeking to return home. The fort had not been able to be located on the 8,800 acre estate until amateur Historian Michael Sullivan teamed up with St. Mary’s College of Maryland Professor Julia King. In 2008 for the 350th anniversary of Charles County they began searching historic records and landforms. The team determined the best possible location was a remote hilltop, surrounded on three sides by woodland creeks. The hilltop had stayed undisturbed by modern interference while the surrounding areas had been developed or mined for gravel. “But within moments of beginning their dig, Strickland and Flick turned up a 17th-century English tobacco pipe. In short order, they uncovered Indian pottery, glass trading beads and other artifacts. They had found Zekiah Fort. ‘It might have been the first day they were finding glass beads. You could have knocked me over with a feather,” King said in the South Maryland News. Among the finds they were able to identify social hierarchy in the settlement and a signet ring likely from Calvert himself.

Also recent archaeological work has been underway at the Smith’s St. Leonard site, a 512 acre farm. One of the family homes built in 1711 has been located and excavated. Of the brick foundation Archaeologists Ed Chaney estimates that only about 10 percent may be left due to ongoing erosion. Since 2002 when excavations began, archaeologist have found kitchens, stables, a possible laundry, and likely slave quarters. Various artifacts such as silver thread and items from a curio cupboard such as a puffer fish, suggests great wealth of the owners.

Both King and Sullivan have been working toward documenting further native settlements and other sites of great import, including the birth place of the first African American to explore the Arctic, Mathew Henson and the birthplace of a leading abolitionist and former slave, Josiah Henson.

Summary from Archaeologists Do Dirty Work of Resurrecting Past

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