April 10, 2024

April is Declared Charles County Archaeology Month (2024)

Once again the Charles County Commissioners proclaimed the month of April as Archaeology Month in Charles County.  This coincides with April being Maryland Archaeology Month.  Mary, Carol, and Claudia represented CCASM at the presentation April 9 at the Charles County Government Building.

The proclamation sites the rich history and heritage of Charles County, exemplified by historic buildings, cultural landmarks, natural features, and local rituals.  It also recognizes that the county is enhanced by historic preservation associations, groups, and professionals who donate countless hours and dollars to preserve that history.  It also specifically mentions Charles County Archaeological Society of Maryland, Inc, Maryland Archeological Society, Inc., and the Maryland Historical Trust.

Commissioners and CCASM members
with Proclamation and Mini-Poster

CCASM gave the each of the Commissioners a copy of this year's Maryland Archaeology Month mini-poster and booklet.  This year's theme was "African Diaspora Archeology: A Collaboration with Descendants". 

CCASM thanks the Commissioners for recognizing the importance of archaeology in Charles County. 



April 8, 2024

2024 Discovering Archeology Day

Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum  map
10515 Mackall Road
St. Leonard, Maryland 20685

Free Admission
Appropriate for all ages 

CCASM will have a table at the event.  So don't forget to stop by and say hi.

Bring the entire family for a day of interactive learning and fun with archaeologists from across Maryland and Virginia.  There will be hands-on activities for kids of all ages, archaeological site and lab tours, displays, games, giveaways, and cool crafts.

Food and beverages (Nicolletti's Pizza) will be for sale at the event.

Investigating the James Swann Site -2024

CCASM and other Monday volunteers are working with Esther Read to continue the investigation of the James Swann Site that is now owned by Charles County.  James Swann was a "man of color" (possibly a Native American) that acquired land in Port Tobacco in 1840's and operated a tavern and oyster house in the village for almost twenty-five years. 

Check Public Archaeology Lab Days post for weekday schedule and Public Archeology days;

We returned to the site Monday April 8 and continued excavating the new unit.  It's amazing how many buckets of soil needing to be screened that one peron digging can generate.  Denise did most of the digging while Esther cleaned up and documented.  Tim joined  CCASM members Claudia, Elsie, Linda, Gary, Mary, and Carol to screen.  With all the other historic and Native American artifacts we found another projectile point (Piscataway).

We stopped around 2pm to have a solar eclipse viewing party. Linda brought snacks.

Lots to screen.  Luckily there lots of
people here to screen
Taking a break or
giving the screeners a chance to catch up?

Sunday April 7 ten people (including six CCASM members and two of Esther's former students) joined Esther at the Swann Site for a Public Archaeology Day.  It was another beautiful but somewhat balmy day.  Excavation of the first level of the partial unit with a possible post hole was completed, and another unit to the south was opened.  We recovered historic artifacts - bricks, ceramics, glassware, pipe stems, rosehead nails, gun flint, ... and Native American Ceramics - fire cracked rocks, flakes, and one complete stemmed projectile point.  CCASM members helping were Mary, Elsie, Denise, Claudia, Carol, and Jim.

Checking out post hole/mold

How did one partial unit generate
so much soil?

Earthenware Sherd

 Whenever it is sunny and not too hot we plan to be in the field at the Swann Site on Mondays.  Monday March 25 was one of those days. Esther dug part of the west half of the open unit with a post hole.  The dirt kept Elsie, Denise, Pat, Carol, and Malinda busy screening until past our usual quitting time.   There were a number of historic and indigenous artifacts recovered in the screen- ceramics, glass, nails, brick, flakes,... 
We chose one of the larger fragments that was not a brick as the artifact of the day.  It was an early lead glazed red earthenware sherd.

More hands make screening go faster

Monday March 18 was a nice but windy day to be in the field.  Esther with help from Elsie continued excavating the partial unit and found two post holes.  In the morning Claudia, Carol, and Malinda screened while Ned cleaned off the area north of foundation in preparation for a future unit there.  In the afternoon Malinda joined Mary and Linda in the lab and Elsie helped with the screening.  We were finding historic and native American artifacts.

Trying to pry buckets apart
(Took a really long time)
Screening on a windy day
Clinched Rose-head Nail


Monday March 4 turned out to be another nice day to be in the field.  Ned with some help from Cal, a new Charles County Planning employee, excavated a partial unit on the west side of the open units to look for another post mold.  Claudia, Elsie, Linda, Carol, and Cal screened. 
We ended up choosing this clinched Rose-head Nail as the artifact of the day.  It is on a dirty overturned plastic bucket; the only light colored background we could find.

Ned starting partial unit
More Screening

On a beautiful Monday (February 26) several of us returned to the Swann Site to work on completing a unit while others worked inside in the lab.  Elsie and Mary worked with Esther to clean up the bottom of the unit so the features in the bottom of the unit could be documented.  Ned and Peggy helped but also worked on cleaning up the site for us to return soon.

Cleaning bottom of unit

Post mold excavated

Screening newly excavated dirt
into another completed unit

Thanks to Ned for the photos. 

Investing the James Swann Site -2023


April 6, 2024

CCASM April Meeting

April 18, 2024 (7 PM) 
Abolition and the Liberated Africans on the Gambia River

Join us to hear Dr.  Liza Gijanto talk about the history of the Liberated Africans in West Africa and the archeology she and her students have done there.   In the settlement of Banjul, the capital of The Gambia, Dr. Gijanto and her students excavated sites owned or related to the Liberated African families in the 19th and 20th century.

Liza Gijanto
Associate Professor,  Department of Anthropology
St. Mary's College of Maryland

Location: La Plata Police Department
, 101 La Grange Ave, La Plata, MD (map)
Parking is on the north side of the building (but not behind where the police cars are), on the street, and in the lot across the street.

Inclement weather policy: If the evening activities of the Charles County Public Schools are canceled due to inclement weather, CCASM meetings and/or activities will also be canceled.
Call the 24-hour information line [301-934-7410 or 301-932-6656] to hear if there are any announcements. If there aren't any updates, then CCASM activities will proceed as planned.


April 3, 2024

2024 ASM Spring Symposium

The Archeological Society of Maryland, Inc. 58th Spring Symposium
Saturday April 20  (9:00am-3:00pm)
Maryland Historical Trust, 100 Community Place, Crownsville, MD  map

Click for agenda with abstracts of talks
  • 8:30    Registration and Coffee 
  • 9:00    Welcome and Introduction

  •  9:15
    13,000 Year Old Artifacts in 50 Year Old Cigar Boxes: New Insights from the Maryland Fluted Point Survey
    Zachary Singer, Maryland Historical Trust

  •  9:55
    Florida Paleoindians: Why much of what we know is preserved underwater
    David Thulman, George Washington University

  • 10:30
    Coffee Break
  • 10:50
    The Richard E. Stearns Memorial Lecture  (presented remotely)

    Paleoindian Use of Normanskill Chert across the Northeast
    Jonathan Lothrop, New York State Museum

  • 12:00-1:00 
    Lunch - bring a bag lunch, mingle with friends and visit the Silent Auction
  • 1:00
    History in the Marsh: How One Headstone in the Woods Led to the Discovery of a Domestic Site
    Daniel Dean

  •  1:45
    ASM Student Spotlight

    3D Osteological Type Collection Website
    Kaydee Anderson, George Washington University

  • 2:20
    Coffee Break
  • 2:45
    The Iris McGillivray Memorial Lecture

    Jasper Ridge’s (44WR506) Potential Contributions to Paleo-American Studies: A History of the Interpretations
    Mike Johnson, Virginia Museum of Natural History

  • Free Admission
    CCASM is a chapter of ASM.

April 2, 2024

2024 Public Archaeology Lab Days (Apr-Jun)

CCASM has been working with Charles County at the ongoing Public Archaeology Lab since 2015.  The lab is for processing artifacts recovered from various archaeology initiatives in Charles County -  including artifacts from investigations of sites on County properties, artifacts recovered from savage archaeology in the County, as well as artifacts recovered around the 1970's before the Port Tobacco Courthouse was reconstructed.  Esther Read is the archaeologist in charge.

Health precautions:  Following guidelines for Charles County. 

Location: Courthouse (2nd floor; use South Wing door) and Burch House (both inside and outside) in Historic Port Tobacco Village  map
Note:  Public Archeology Days at Swann Site (10am-3pm) -
                        Saturday May  4 and Sunday May 5
                        Saturday June 1 and Sunday June 2

Next dates: 
         Wednesday,      Apr  10 (10am - 12pm)  School Group in morning
         Friday,             Apr  12  (10am - 12pm)  School Group in morning
         Monday,       Apr 17      (11am - 3pm)   in field Swann Site; lab  
         Friday,             Apr  19  (10am - 12pm)  School Group in morning
         Monday,           Apr  22  (10am - 12pm)  School Group in morning
         Monday,       Apr 22       (11am - 3pm)   in field Swann Site; lab
         Friday,             Apr  29   (10am - 12pm)  School Group in morning

Painted Sherd

Monday April 1 was rainy, and only three volunteers (Denise, Claudia, and Carol) plus Esther (on crutches) were at the lab in Burch House.   Denise washed bones from PT attic while Claudia and Carol sorted and bagged the remaining artifacts recovered from the Maxwell Hall shell midden (18CH101).  Then we all washed artifacts recovered from the Swann Site last Monday.

An artifact doesn't have to be big in order to add to the story.  This small polychrome painted sherd was chosen as the artifact of the day.  Since it is similar to other polychrome sherds with a minimum of cobalt paint, it would date from c.1795 to c.1815.  It was recovered last week at the Swann Site in Port Tobacco.  So far most of the sherds recovered from this area predate 1830.

April 1, 2024

2024 Public Archaeology Lab Days (Jan-Mar)

CCASM has been working with Charles County at the ongoing Public Archaeology Lab since 2015.  The lab is for processing artifacts recovered from various archaeology initiatives in Charles County -  including artifacts from investigations of sites on County properties, artifacts recovered from savage archaeology in the County, as well as artifacts recovered around the 1970's before the Port Tobacco Courthouse was reconstructed. Esther Read is the archaeologist in charge.

Here is what we were doing the first quarter of 2024.

Monday March 25 Peggy, Linda, Claudia, and in the morning Carol were in the lab sorting and bagging artifacts recently recovered from one unit/level at the Swann site.  This included last week's artifact of the day.  In addition to all the historic artifacts there were also fire-cracked rocks, flakes, and other debitage.

Sorting before bagging

Possible Pipkin Foot
Although most of us were in the field at the Swann Site on Monday March 18, Mary and Linda decided to work in the lab.  They were joined in the afternoon by Malinda.  The remaining 1970 Port Tobacco artifacts that had been washed last week were sorted and bagged.  However, most of the time was spent washing artifacts recovered recently from the Swann Site. 

We chose this unglazed red earthenware fragment as the artifact of the day.  It appears to be a foot from a pipkin.  A pipkin is an an earthenware cooking pot that can be placed over coals, and it usually has three feet. 

Pipe Stem
(different views)
We returned to the lab on Monday March 11.  Mary, Denise, Claudia, Carol and Malinda were in the Courthouse continuing to sort/catalog artifacts from BF1-BF recovered from Port Tobacco around 1970.  Mary, Denise, and Claudia worked on glassware while Carol and Malinda worked on stoneware.  Lots and lots of glass and stoneware.
At Burch House Elsie and Linda washed artifacts that we had recovered last week from the Swann Site while Ned brushed metal artifacts from Swann and also from the Blacksmith Site. 
The artifact of the day comes from last weeks' excavations at the James Swann Site.  It is a kaolin pipe stem fragment with decorations covering the entire stem and with the letters E, C, and possibly another letter on it.  Most early English pipe stems were plain while many early Dutch pipe stems were decorated.  There are examples of later pipe stems with words on them.  Esther shared a website http://www.pipearchive.co.uk/howto/maker.html that shows English pipe stems that were decorated.  One image showed early nineteenth-century molded decorated pipe stems also having the name of the maker.  The decoration might be similar to ours but it was from a different maker.

White salt-glazed
stoneware rims

 On Monday February 26 while some of us were working at Swann Site, the rest of us were working in lab.  There was not enough work today for all of us to be be in the field, there was still a lot to be done in lab.  At the Courthouse Pat and Carol sorted lots of stoneware in preparation of cataloging it while Denise was cataloging table ware.  All these artifacts were recovered from BF1-BF1 in Port Tobacco.  At Burch House Malinda and Peggy continued washing some of the last artifacts brought down from the Courthouse attic. 
We choose these rims of white salt-glazed stoneware from BF1-BF as the "artifact of the day".  Designs on the rims include barley, basket, cartouche, diaper, dot and diaper, and shell.

Pot Metal Casting

 Monday February 12 we were in lab working on artifacts from a number of different sites.  At the Courthouse work continued on sorting 1970 PT artifacts from BF1-BF in preparation for cataloging them.  Denise and Mary worked on clear table glass fragments.  Claudia, Malinda, and Carol worked on coarse and refined earthenware sherds.
Elsie, Evie, and Ned were at Burch House.  Elsie worked on Maxwell Hall shell midden artifacts - bagging non-shell artifacts and weighing oyster shells.  Evie washed some of the remaining 1970 PT artifacts.  Ned brushed metal artifacts recovered from Port Tobacco.  The artifact for the day is one of those artifacts.  It is a pot metal casting that appears to be a hood ornament that could have been used used on a car or a boat.  Pot metal castings were usually chrome plated, but on this artifact all that is left is the pot metal.
Thanks to Ned for the photo and the information about the artifact. 

Tin-glazed Rim
On Monday February 5 lab was once again held in two locations.  Claudia, Elsie, Pat, and Peggy spent the day at Burch House mainly washing and weighing dried oyster shells from a shell midden site in Maxwell Hall.  Some of the remaining 1970 PT artifacts needing to be washed were washed. 
Denise, Linda, Carol, Mary, and Malinda were at the Courthouse processing artifacts recovered from BF1-BF during the ca 1970 Port Tobacco excavations.  Denise and Linda started entering brown glass fragments into the spreadsheet.  Malinda, Carol, and Mary sorted tin-glazed earthenware sherds as well as porcelain sherds in preparation for cataloging them.  Once again we choose tin-glazed sherds from BF1-BF as the artifact of the day.  These two rim sherds mend, but the glaze did not break at the exact location where the paste broke.

Tin-glazed Sherds

Monday January 29 we had visitors.  While the visitors were learning about Port Tobacco and visiting the Blacksmith Site, we were in the lab.  At Burch House Elsie, Linda, Claudia, Malinda, and Evie brushed dirt from oyster shells (lots of ouster shells) recovered from the Maxwell Hall shell midden.  Peggy worked with the new printer and computer.  At the Courthouse Denise, Mary, and Carol worked on additional sorting of artifacts recovered from BF1-BF during the ca 1970 Port Tobacco excavations.  All the artifacts having BF1-BF on the label but no other location information had been bagged by type of material (ceramics, glass, etc.), and these "material" bags contained hundreds of artifacts.  Mary and Denise started sorting the glass bags, and Carol started sorting the ceramics bags.  We chose these tin-glazed sherds as the artifact of the day.   Rather than the usual blue painted decorations, the color on these were yellow, green, and  blue-green with manganese purple lines.  Although it is hard to see in the photo the flower on the larger sherd is manganese purple powder.  Note the designs are floral.

Our visitors were Dr Jim Gibb and people who have been volunteering with him at SERC (Smithsonian Environmental Research Center) Archaeology Lab .  The SERC volunteers have been processing the metal artifacts that we recovered from the Blacksmith site.  Today turned out to be a good day for them to come to Port Tobacco to actually visit the site.  Esther, Ned, Steve, and James shared their experiences investigating the site and recovering the artifacts. 

SERC visitors joining us for lunch
SERC visitors at Blacksmith Site
Thanks to Ned for the additional photo.

Sorting Shell Midden Artifacts
On Monday January 22 Burch House was a cozy 50 degrees when we got there.  The space heater and the closed doors to other rooms may have gotten the back room temperature up to 62 by the end of day.  There was lots of excitement at the Courthouse after lunch.  Apparently the back outside faucet had not been turned off and the water had frozen.  We all had lunch in the Courthouse, and as some of us were returning to Burch we found that the sun on the back of the Courthouse had melted the ice in the frozen faucet, and water was running all over the back yard.  The County promptly fixed the problem after several hurried phone calls among Esther, several SRPT members, and the County.

At Burch, Evie and Claudia bagged the last of the artifacts from the Swann excavation this summer.   Linda, Elsie, and Pat started off bagging Maxwell Hall Equestrian Park artifacts (mostly oyster shells) that we had cleaned last week.  After that they cleaned more oyster shells and a few lithics from the same area (a shell midden).  Claudia also worked on this project after lunch.

Denise, Mary, and Esther transported several boxes of Swann artifact to the courthouse for cataloging and set up the Courthouse for winter work there. They also brought down from the Courthouse attic more artifacts from the first (early 1970's) dig.  Some of these were taken to Burch House for washing in the coming weeks.  
Thanks to Elsie for the write-up and the photo.

Iron Key
On a dreary January 15 a few of us came out to volunteer in the Lab at Burch House.  Claudia, Malinda, and Carol sorted and bagged most of the remaining artifacts recovered so far from the Swann Site.  Less than half of one tray remains to be bagged.  It has already been sorted.  Elsie and Linda pulled together all the remaining metal artifacts recovered from the Blacksmith Site.  Then it was on to washing oyster shells from a Maxwell Hall shell midden.
As the first artifact of the day for the new year we chose this barrel style key from the Blacksmith Site.
On Monday January 8 Burch House was full of people returning after the holidays.  This included CCASM members Elsie, Mary, Linda, Denise, Kathy, Carol, and Ned, ASM member Malinda, along with Evie, one of the newer volunteers, and Esther Read.  The first activity was to take down and store the Christmas decorations.  This was followed by various other activities including continuing to process the Swann Site artifacts, updating the artifact data validation on the three computers in the courthouse, and checking out a new computer donated to CCASM.   When Linda's grandson got a new computer, he donated his old computer and color printer to CCASM.  Thank you, Linda's grandson.
With all the scurrying around, we didn't remember to select an artifact of the day.

March 28, 2024

2024 April is Maryland Archaeology Month

African Diaspora Archeology: A Collaboration with Descendants

Check out www.marylandarcheologymonth.org
for everything going on

Download 2024 Maryland Archeology Month Booklet

View 2024 Maryland Archeology Month Activities
(Check out public archaeology opportunities at various sites throughout the state.)

CCASM Events during April
(All events are free.)  

Mondays April 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 (11am-3pm)
Public Archeology

Volunteer at the on-going archaeology being done at the Swann Site in the Historic Port Tobacco Village (either in the lab or in the field).
Location: Historic Port Tobacco Village, MD 20677
Sponsor: Charles County Archaeological Society of Maryland, Inc and Charles County Government
Contact: Esther Doyle Read email: ReadE@charlescountymd.gov 

Saturday, April 13 (11am-4pm)
Discovering Archaeology Day
Bring the entire family for a day of interactive learning and fun, including archaeological site and lab tours, exhibits, games and cool crafts.   Experience, discover, learn, and have fun exploring the “what, where, and how’s” of archaeology!   more info
CCASM will have a tent at the event.
Location: Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum, 10515 Mackall Road, Saint Leonard, MD 20685
Sponsor: Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum

Thursday, April 18 (7 pm) - Charles County
Tentative Topic: Archaeology at the Chiles Site at Douglas Point
Speaker: Dr. Liza Gijanto
(CCASM April meeting)

Location: La Plata Police Department, 101 La Grange Avenue La Plata, MD
Sponsor: Charles County Archaeological Society of Maryland, Inc
Contact: Carol Cowherd  ccasm2010@gmail.com

March 22, 2024

Mallows Bay Graveyard Laboratory

Allyson Ropp
At the March 21 CCASM Allyson Ropp's topic was "The Mallows Bay Graveyard Laboratory: Archaeological and Ecological Science of the Ghost Fleet".   Allyson is investigating the Aowa shipwreck in Mallows Bay.  It is one of the wrecks in the outer tier of the shipwrecks in the Bay.  Not only did Allyson cover the overall history that led to the Graveyard, but she also included the history of the Aowa and its limited number of voyages.  Allyson has started her ecological research on the impacts of of nature on the wrecks and and the wrecks on nature.  She has collected some of the first samples (from the wood and from the water) and is waiting for the results from the lab.  This is a multi-year project, and Allyson will be giving us updates in the future

Investigating the Aowa

Allyson Ropp is a Ph.D. Candidate from East Carolina University.  She is also a NOAA Dr. Nancy Foster Scholar.  NOAA’s Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program provides support for master’s and doctoral degrees in oceanography, marine biology, maritime archaeology and particularly encourages women and members of minority groups to apply.  As part of her application CCASM indicated they would be a local organization that would collaborate with her.

This was our third hybrid Zoom/in-person meeting.  We still need to work out a few more kinks.  Thanks to those who attended via Zoom for their patience.  Also thanks to Peggy for providing the hot spot and microphone and for monitoring the Zoom meeting, and thanks to Jim for using his account to set up the Zoom meeting.  

Before meeting - catching up or just relaxing

Attendance: 23 (including 5 via Zoom)

March 15, 2024

Volunteering with Dr. Liza Gijanto at Chiles Site

Dr. Liza Gijanto, Associate Professor of Anthropology at St Mary's College of Maryland, invited CCASM members to volunteer with her and her students as they investigate the Chiles Site at Douglas Point. 

Dr. Gjanto is working with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to try and define the limits of the house site and to test a structure that they hope is an enslaved quarter site.   Dr. Wes Willoughby is the BLM archaeologist for the project.  The goal is to find out as much as they can about the enslaved and possibly emancipated population and incorporate this history into the overall site interpretation.  Work, mainly STPs, had previously been done at the site in 2005 by William & Mary Center for Archaeological Research.  To see an overview of that work, check out https://www.wm.edu/sites/wmcar/research/chiles/archaeology/

Friday March 15 Carol returned to the site and was able to help with the troweling in one of the units. Interestingly there were a lot of fat rusty nails as well as some brick fragments in this unit, but there were more bricks in the adjacent unit.  Saturday will be the last day for the crew to be on site during Spring Break, but there may be other Saturdays that the crew will be on site.  Here is a picture of the students we worked with this week.  Always fun to work with students.

The St Mary's College Crew

Wednesday March 13 Mary, Linda, Doug, and Carol volunteered on the site.  Doug and Linda screened soil from the various units including from Unit 10 that Carol and Mary spent the day troweling.  The troweling was a little different since the grass roots were also removed with a trowel rather than by flat shoveling.  And there were lot of roots crisscrossing the unit that required clipping or pruning. The few artifacts recovered (brick fragments, flat glass fragments, possible nail,...) came from the southwest part of the unit,   We weren't able to complete the level before we left.  Still it was an interesting experience.

Screening in the morning
(new units opened)
Screening in afternoon

Tuesday March 12 was the first day for volunteers on the site.  Mary, Linda, Elsie, and Carol worked with the students/crew (Mac, Emilia, Laura, Yasmin) on a number of test units, mainly screening although Carol also troweled.  Since this was the upper level of the units, we weren't finding a lot, but it's always fun to work on a site when the weather is nice. 
Interestingly Linda's parents had once rented part of the Chiles Site for farming.  Also two men whose family had lived near the house visited us along with Cat Warren, the project genealogist.  There were a lot of stories swapped.

CCASM members and students
Using drone to document site
Visitors with connection to site