November 16, 2017

Photographing Stagg Hall Print Shop Units

Charles County arranged for a drone pilot to take still pictures from the air of the print shop units that have been excavated in front of Stagg Hall.  Once the pictures are taken, the units will be back filled.  Denise and Elsie assisted Esther Doyle Reed, Charles County Archaeologist, in preparing the units for their "screen preview".   (Denise and Elsie are just two of the many CCASM members that were involved in the excavating the units.)
Units Ready for Their Picture to be Taken
On Wednesday November 15 Charles County employees Brent Huber, Video Production Specialist, and Eva Lightfoot, Photographer, assisted Esther Reed in directing the shoot.  And Lt. David Kelly from the Charles County Sheriff's Office piloted the drone.  In addition to the pictures of the units some pictures were taken from a higher elevation to show the location of the units in relation to both Stagg Hall and the village as a whole.

The pictures were downloaded from the drone to Brent's tablet at the end of the shoot, and the county will process them.

After the units are back filled some of the pictures from today's shoot can be used in Stagg Hall to show visitors what the units looked like when they were open.  Also some of the pictures could be used by Esther for presentations to archaeology conferences and by the county in tourism material.

Thanks to Elsie for the information and to Elsie and Denise for the photos.

November 13, 2017

2017 Public Archaeology Lab Days (June - Dec )

CCASM is working with Charles County at the ongoing Public Archaeology Lab Days.  The lab is for processing artifacts recovered from various archaeology initiatives in Charles County -  including processing artifacts recovered recently from Stagg Hall as well as those recovered in the 1970's around the Courthouse.  Esther Read is the archaeologist in charge.

Open to the general public.   No experience is required.  

Location: Burch House in Historic Port Tobacco Village  map
Note: location change until it gets cold again.

Next dates (activity subject to change):   
          Monday,  Nov 20 (11am - 3:30pm)
          Monday,  Nov 27 (11am - 3:30pm)
          Monday,  Dec  4 (11am - 3:30pm) 

November 13 we processed artifacts from the print shop in front of Stagg Hall.  Evelyn, Elsie, and Julie washed artifacts.  Julie also sorted and bagged artifacts.  On the left is a photo showing a representative screen of the artifacts that were mostly architectural and ceramics.  But the artifact of the day was a small metal fastener with gripper teeth.  It is impressed with the word Hickory and an image possibly of a boy playing with a dog.  Hickory did make overalls, and this was probably for the shoulder strap adjustment. 
 Evelyn and Elsie briefly assisted Esther to pump the water out of the print shop units as she prepared for the units being professionally photographed later this week.  (Thanks to Elsie for providing the information and the photos.)

November 6 Denise and Elsie sorted and bagged artifacts from recent excavations at Stagg Hall while Julie and Evelyn washed artifacts also from Stagg Hall.  Esther continued on finalizing the revised categories we will use this winter to catalog the artifacts from the early archaeological excavations at Port Tobacco.  And Cathy stopped by to visit while we took advantage of the last of the warm weather to eat lunch outside.  The artifact for the day is a small piece of engine turned dipped pearlware with green glazed herringbone rouletting.  It probably dates from from first part of the nineteenth century.  (Thanks to Elsie for providing the information and the photo.)

October 30 Denise, Elsie, and Julie washed artifacts including a lot of oysters while Carol sorted and bagged artifacts recovered from Stagg Hall.  In all the mortar, bricks, nails, and miscellaneous artifacts, we found this artifact for the day -- a small piece of green transfer printed earthenware that probably dates from the early to middle nineteenth century. 

October 23 we returned to the lab.  Evelyn, Denise, and Carol sorted and bagged artifacts recovered from Port Tobacco while Julie washed more artifacts.  Evelyn took time out to wash oyster shells recovered from Rich Hill(nice boots).  Esther moved buckets around as she organized the lab and got ready for this Saturday's work at Carroll Family Cemetery.
October 16 Denise and Carol screened dirt and drew wall profiles while Esther excavated several features that were associated with the print shop in front of Stagg Hall.  On the right is the corner with most of the builder's trench on the north side excavated.  North is to the right in the photo.  Artifacts of note included larger pieces of window glass and small fragments of leather.  Earlier in the day Julie and Tina stopped by on their way to continue clearing the Jail Site Lot.  Thanks to Esther for the photos.

October 9 was a rainy Monday.  Jeanne Marie washed artifacts while Evelyn, Julie, and Carol sorted and bagged artifacts that we had previously washed.  It was somewhat of a lazy day, and none of the artifacts jumped out at us.  So no artifact of the day.

October 2 Denise, Elsie, Jeanne Marie, Carol, and Esther returned to the excavations in front of Stagg Hall.  The units need to be back filled by October 18, but we keep finding new features.  Here Jeanne Marie is troweling a possible post mold.  Elsie and Denise were working inside the building on a large concentration of mortar.  There they found some cut bones, larger pieces of window glass, a printer type, and our artifact of the day - the base of an eighteenth century case bottle.

September 25 Denise, Evelyn, Carol, and Esther returned to the excavations in front of Staff Hall to continue excavating the area to the north of the print shop corner.  Another feature was found adjoining the building foundation to the north.  Something to investigate the next time we are in the field.  But our artifact for the day is this copper alloy artifact that is probably part of an eighteenth century buckle.  Some of the dirt was rinsed off, but it still needs to be washed.

On a rainy September 18 Evelyn, Denise and Carol sorted and bagged artifacts while Esther updated field notes and event photos.  Denise and Carol worked on artifacts from recent excavations in front of Stagg Hall.  Evelyn got to bag the interesting artifacts from BF1 including the drinking vessels featured on August 14.

Before the units in front of Stagg Hall can be back filled, profiles of the walls need to be drawn.  So on September 11 we worked on documentation rather than on washing artifacts.  Here Denise And Evelyn are creating their first profile drawing.  Elsie, Carol, and Esther also worked on profiling.  We should be able to finish up next week.

Denise, Elsie, Jeanne Marie, Evelyn, and Carol returned to lab on August 28.  Mainly we washed artifacts recovered from BF1.  Then we moved outside to the picnic tables  to sort and bag artifacts recovered recently from in front of Stagg Hall.  After we had selected a decorated tobacco pipe bowl fragment as the artifact of the day, we came across this nicely decorated tin-glazed earthenware bowl.  So we have two artifacts for the day.  Both came from the BF1 area, but from different locations.
On August 14 the lab was quite full - Denise, Joe, and Carol had returned from vacations, Elsie finally had her air conditioner installation completed, while it was just a normal volunteer day for Evelyn, Jeanne Marie, and Esther.  The remaining Stagg Hall artifacts were washed while previously washed artifacts were sorted and bagged.   One bag of artifacts from BF1 was also washed, and that bag contained our "artifact" of the day - fragments from several mid- to late-eighteenth century drinking glasses.  (Note: This image was featured as the August 17 artifact of the day on the American Artifacts Blog
There wasn't supposed to be a lab August 7 because we were going to assist the Port Tobacco River Conservancy in clearing the jail house lot of invasive non-native plants and other overgrowth in preparation for the installation of interpretative signage. That activity was canceled due to heavy rain.  So Evelyn and Elsie washed artifacts from the last two days of digging in front of Stagg Hall, while Esther continued inventorying the boxes of artifacts from Port Tobacco. The artifacts of the day are a piece of lead and 3 pieces of print type – 2 letters and a spacer bar. The print type is probably lead plus another material to give it more strength.  (Thanks to Elsie for providing the information and Esther for providing the photo.)

July 24 Joe, Denise, Julie, and Andrew sorted artifacts recovered from Port Tobacco feature BF1.  Joe, Denise, and Andrew spent most of their time sorting bones that included several jaw bones that are the "artifact" of the day.  Esther indicated that the bones are from the Glassford site. (Thanks to Julie for providing the photo and the information.) Based on Elsie's additional research - the upper pieces that are upside down are from the right side of a cow mandible, and the lower images are pig - a right maxilla (upper) and a left third molar from the other maxilla."

Since the special tour of Port Tobacco was cancelled at the last minute on July 17, Jeanne Marie, Andrew, Elsie, Julie, Carol, and Esther had additional time to catch up on a number of different activities in the lab (washing, sorting, inventorying boxes, ...).  The artifact for the day comes from BF1 (1970's Port Tobacco excavations).  It's a rim from a utilitarian red earthenware vessel, but the green glaze on the interior is unusual. 
July 10 we returned to the lab.  Jeanne Marie washed the artifacts recovered from Stagg Hall last week, Carol and Andrew washed artifacts from two BF1 units, Julie sorted previously washed Port Tobacco artifacts, and Esther worked on reports.  One of the more interesting artifacts was this lead object recovered from BF1 square 6 in the 1970's.  There appears to be one large object with "50" stamped on the back and with at least two objects that might be latches melted to it.

On July 3 Denise, Joe, Andrew, Carol, and Esther once again took time off from the lab and worked on a feature in one of the units in front of Stagg Hall.   The feature was next to the building foundation and may have been part of a robbers trench (to take take bricks from this building for use in a different location).  The most interesting artifact recovered from near the bottom of the feature was this lead bar with lettering stamped on it.  We were able to make out "MERCHANTS SHOT WORK".   The rest of the lettering is obscured by mortar.  Thomson's Mercantile and Professional Directory (1851-1852) has an advertisement for Merchants Shot Works in Baltimore, and Google comes up with several references (mainly related to the military) to lead bars stamped with "Merchants Shot Works Baltimore".

2017 Public Archaeology Lab Days (Jan-June)
2016 Public Archaeology Lab Days (July - Dec)
2016 Public Archaeology Lab Days (Jan - June)
2015 Public Archaeology Lab Days

November 10, 2017

Drone Anthropology and A Visit to Caracol

Alison DeCamp and Jacob Moschler
At the December 14 CCASM meeting Jacob Moschler and Alison DeCamp recounted their recent travels in Belie including a visit to the remote Caracol archaeological site in Cayo District of Belize.  Caracol was an important regional political center of the Maya Lowlands during the Classic Period.  For those who missed the talk, you can view the slides as well as the video at

Next Jacob talked about his work with drones including a 5-year anthropology project working with anthropologist Dr Sean Downey using small drones to scan 20,000 acres of jungle in the Toledo District of southern Belize, smaller projects with archaeologist Kristin Montaperto in Prince George's County, as well as search and rescue projects.  And of course he told us about the drones and the software.  You can see videos of his recent projects on his twitter account @scallop_shell. Jacob previously had shared a YouTube video related to his work in Belize - note the large bamboo pole he used for the antenna.

Jacob Moschler is an Engineer and Drone Pilot at the University of Maryland Unmanned Aircraft Test Site in California, MD.  To find out more about University of Maryland UAS Test Site check out

Attendance: 15

October 29, 2017

Mt. Hope Church & Cemetery Volunteer Workday

October is Cemetery Month.  On Saturday October 28 a special "Mt. Hope Church and Cemetery Volunteer Workday" was held at Mt. Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Nanjemoy.   The event was sponsored by the Mt. Hope Church community, Preservation Maryland, Coalition to Protect Maryland Burial Sites, Charles County Planning, and the Association for Preservation Technology.

There were four areas of activity during the day:
  • Mt. Hope Cemetery Conservation and Headstone Documentation 
  • Recording History - both oral and family documents
  • Architectural Documentation  of Carroll Family Farmhouse
  • Archaeology at Carroll Family Cemetery
Five CCASM members volunteered - Denise, Joe, Evelyn, Julie, Carol, and Jim.  And guess which activity we choose.  Archaeology at the Carroll Family Cemetery, of course.  It was not just us at the cemetery.  There were many, many members of Mt Hope Church and of the Carroll family that also helped at this site.

Esther Read, the Charles County archaeologist, was in charge.  If you have never looked for graves in an unmarked cemetery, here is what we did.  First, we looked for impressions in the ground.  Over time after someone is buried and starts to return to the soil, the ground on top begins to sink in.  We also looked for posts in the ground and rocks that may have marked graves.  And we found quite a few.  Scott Lawrence's experience working with old cemeteries definitely helped.  After the possible graves were marked with flags, we documented each one - length, width, amount of depression, presence of a marker, and presence of other plants, such as periwinkle, that were historically planted in cemeteries.  Also Jim Gibb brought a Total Station, an electronic transit, and recorded the positions of the head and the foot of all the possible graves as well of any posts or stones.

All the data gathered will be turned over to Mt. Hope Church.  Hopefully, in the future we will be able to learn more about what was found.

October 23, 2017

2017 ASM Fall Meeting

On Saturday October 21 the Upper Patuxent Archaeology Group (UPAG) Chapter of ASM hosted the Archeological Society of Maryland, Inc (ASM) 2017 Fall Meeting at Howard Community College in Columbia, MD.

The CCASM members attending were Annetta, Belinda, Carol, and Jim.  Carol gave the CCASM chapter report during the business meeting.  Sarah Grady, CCASM's previous president, also was one of the speakers.

It's always fun to catch up with others from around the state and hear what they are doing.  But the highlight of the meeting was the talks.  Below is the list.  If you get a chance to hear them at some other venue, you should try to go.  You won't be disappointed.
  • In the Face of the Flood: Endangered Sites in Anne Arundel County
    Stacy Poulus, Lost Towns

  • Report on the 2017 ASM Field Session 
    Kirsti Uunila, Calvert County archeologist, presented by Charles Hall, MHT
  • SHA Is More than Highways, Especially if a Shipwreck Is Uncovered
    Aaron Levinthal, SHA
  • The Frederic M. Stiner Memorial Lecture: Looking into a fort George Washington had constructed
    W. Stephen McBride, McBride Preservation Services
  • How a Small Non-Profit Got Involved in Archeology
    Lynne Bulhack, Mid-Potomac Archeological Society
  • The Marilyn Thompson Lecture: Preserving a Jim Crow Era School in Anne Arundel County
    Sarah Grady, University of Maryland
  • Looking for the Wreck of the Scorpion
    WMPT videotape 
Also congratulations to Dennis Curry, the 2017 William B Mayre Award recipient;  Jeff Cunningham, the 2017 Patricia Seitz Teacher of the Year Award recipient; and Dave Peters, the latest person to complete ASM’s Certified Archeological Technician program.

And thanks to the UPAG Chapter for hosting the meeting.

October 13, 2017

History of Archeology in Maryland's First Capitol

Silas Hurry
At the November 12 CCASM meeting Silas Hurry recounted the history of archaeology at Historic St. Mary's City starting with evidence that a colonial resident probably collected projectile points and continuing up to the present.  We learned about all (or most) of the archaeology projects and research that has been done there in the past 200+ years.  Along the way we also saw early photos of many of Maryland's archaeologist when they were working at St. Mary's City.

Silas D. Hurry is Historic St. Mary's City Curator of Collections and Archaeological Laboratory Director.
Getting time to catch up
before the meeting

You may notice our meeting room looks a little different.  At the last minute our regular meeting room was not available, and Mike offered to have us meet at his house.  So thank you Mike. 
Attendance: 8

October 7, 2017

Get Into Mallows Bay Day

Saturday October 7 was a beautiful day for "Get into Mallows Bay Day!".  The sign at the left shows the various organizations that sponsored the event.  CCASM was one of the sponsors.

It was 4th annual trash clean up at Mallows Bay Park co-sponsored by the Alice Ferguson Foundation.  (The Alice Ferguson Foundation has been cleaning up the Potomac for twenty-nine years.)

But there were also other activities - a bird walk by the Audubon Society, two heritage and history walks with Don Shomette,  and kayak tours for families and for the general public.  Someone had donated money so that kayaks could be available at no charge for the kayak tours.

And there were also a number of tables related to archaeology (both on land and in the water), fossils, fish identification, and reptiles (a snake and a turtle).  CCASM had the two tables related to terrestrial archaeology.

Checking out Display and CCASM Activities
Identifying Artifacts
Thanks to Denise and Carol for staffing the table.  They had a good time talking to people and giving out stickers to anyone that completed the artifact activity.

September 27, 2017

Port Tobacco Jail Site Grant (PTRC)

Charles County recently acquired the 1860 Jail Site behind the Port Tobacco Courthouse.  Excavations had been done there in 2008 as part of an ASM Field Session.  Now the site is overgrown, and it is difficult to see what is there.  So the Port Tobacco River Conservancy (PTRC) submitted and received a grant from the County Tourism office to assist with the preparation of the grounds and fabrication of an interpretive panel for the site.  CCASM is one of the partnering organizations on the grant.

Next Date : TBD

Wednesday September 27 Tina, Julie, and Carol continued preparing the grounds.  Tina and Julie removed small "trees" and invasive plants while Carol removed leaves and twigs to uncover artifacts related to the destruction of the jail.  We found lots of bricks, some slate (roof), some mortar, a cut nail, two pieces of whiteware as well as several larger iron objects.  Nice cooperation between PTRC and CCASM.
Tina and Julie
Building debris around tree
whiteware on brick
nail on slate

September 25, 2017

2017 Fieldwork Opportunity at Stagg Hall

Charles County with the support from CCASM members continues to investigate the land around Stagg Hall in Port Tobacco.  Esther Read is the archaeologist in charge.

Location: Stagg Hall in Historic Port Tobacco Village  (map)

Come join Esther Read as well as several CCASM members as we learn more about the Print Shop in front of Stagg Hall.
   Next Date(s)

When working outdoors, it's always good to bring - a hat, sturdy gloves, sunscreen, bug spray, and water to drink.   Also any children must be accompanied by an adult.

CCASM members with previous experience (e.g. at Pomonkey North or at Port Tobacco or ...) are encouraged to come early to help set up.

Saturday September 23 once again CCASM members and other volunteers joined Charles County archaeologist Esther Reed along with fellow archaeologist and CCASM member Jim Gibb in front of Stagg Hall for a Public Archaeology event.  And we finally uncovered a corner (the northeast one) of this nineteenth century print shop.  Yea!
Excavating Print Shop Site
Uncovering the NE Corner!

On Saturday August 5, CCASM members and other volunteers again joined Charles County archaeologist Esther Reed at a public archaeology event in front of Stagg Hall.  For most of the day we continued work on the new unit we opened the previous Sunday.  We have not totally answered the mystery of the dense gravel but believe we may have encountered either a utility trench or the drain tile field for Stagg Hall's previous septic system.  During the week a long time Port Tobacco resident told us this septic field was in the front yard.  We now believe the corner of the print shop is probably in the narrow non-excavated area between our original units and the unit we opened last Sunday.  We probably missed it by only a couple of feet!  Towards the end of the day we started excavating in this area but didn't get down to the level where we expect to find the foundation corner.  Thanks to Elsie for the pictures and the write-up.
On Sunday July 30 during the archaeological fieldwork in front of Stagg Hall we opened a new unit near the print shop hoping to find the back corner of the building.  We found an area of very dense gravel which raised some new questions about the area.. Hopefully we will find some answers when we work on this unit again next Saturday.

The fieldwork coincided the Society for the Restoration of Port Tobacco hosting bicycle riders from the STIHL Tours de Trees and with the dedication of a Tulip Poplar tree (grafted from Revolutionary War era tree) donated by the tour.  Thanks to Julie for the pictures and Elsie for the write-up.


September 15, 2017

Bones for Beginners Workshop II

Dr James Gibb
At the September meeting Dr. Jim Gibb gave the third of a series of talks on bones.   Archaeologists frequently recover bones left over from past meals. They need to identify the animals that the bones represent and from these identifications evaluate past diets and environments.

At this meeting Jim conducted a hands-on workshop using bird road kill specimens to review anatomy and point out distinguishing features of bird bones. We had a chance to try to identify the bones and try to determine how they fit together for over seven birds including owls, a cormorant, and a turkey vulture.

Dr. James Gibb is the sole proprietor of Gibb Archaeological Consulting.  He is also a Smithsonian Research Associate and directs SERC’s Environmental Archaeology Laboratory.  Jim is one of the founding members of CCASM.

For previous workshop on mammals -  Bones for Beginners Workshop I

Attendance: 10