January 15, 2018

Congratulations to Julia King

Dr. King with award
On January 5 Dr. Julia A King received the 2018 J.C. Harrington Award from the Society for Historical Archaeology(SHA) in recognition of her lifetime achievements in historical archaeology.  FYI, SHA is the largest scholarly group concerned with the archaeology of the modern world (15th century-present).

Congratulations, Julie.

January 12, 2018

Native American Hunting Tools and Techniques

Nathaniel Salzman
At the January 11 CCASM meeting Nate Salzman described the different hunting tools and tactics employed by pre-contact native groups of the Chesapeake, and he tied this information to the seventeenth century writings of John Smith as well as to a sixteenth century John White drawing.  Nate also looked at the importance of hunting to native groups that ranged from providing meat to signifying status, both as an individual and as a group.

For hands-on time Nate brought examples of animal pelts, cured skins, a strung bow, arrows, a quiver, clubs, bone tools, and wood for making traps that were used or had been made at JPPM's Indian Village.  

Hands-on time
Note: Nate and one of the attendees putting together a fall trap.

Nathaniel Salzman is an Education and Exhibit Specialist  at the Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum(JPPM).  Nate manages JPPM's Indian Village.

Attendance: 18

January 8, 2018

2018 Public Archaeology Lab Days (Jan-June )

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: Port Tobacco Courthouse in Historic Port Tobacco Village  map
Note: location until it gets warm again. 

Next dates:   
          Monday,  Jan  15 Holiday
          Monday,  Jan  22 (11am - 3:30pm)
          Monday,  Jan  29 (11am - 3:30pm)

January, our first lab day for the year, was cut short due to the weather forecast (sleet and possible icy roads).   Elsie, Denise, Carol, and Bonnie, a new volunteer, catalogued artifacts from the 1970's Port Tobacco BF1 site.  Evelyn was able to join us after lunch.  Jay, a new Charles County intern, worked along side us as he started researching the deeds associated with the BF1 site, and Esther reviewed her latest version of the report documenting the site.  We spent a lot of time looking at the artifact chosen as the artifact of the day and decided it was a broken bangle bracelet.  We are not certain of the "white" metal of which it is made.  The artifact was found in the top 0-8" of the unit.

2017 Public Archaeology Lab Days (July-Dec)
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

December 18, 2017

2017 Public Archaeology Lab Days (July - Dec )

CCASM is continuing to work with Charles County at the Monday Public Archaeology Lab Days on various Charles County collections and exhibit initiatives.  The lab is located in Historic Port Tobacco.  Esther Read is the archaeologist in charge.

Here is what we did during the second half of 2017.

On December 18, our last lab day for the year, Elsie, Evelyn, Julie, Carol, Tim, and Esther mostly cataloged artifacts from the 1970's BF1 site.  We used the latest version of Esther's catalog system to enter information about the artifacts into a spreadsheet.  We choose this green Depression Glass lid for the artifact of the day.   Looks somewhat festive.  
December 11 Denise, Julie, and Carol spent most of the day trying to reorganize the bags of artifacts that had been brought down from the Port Tobacco Courthouse attic.  At least half of the artifacts are still in the attic.  Also Esther shared her latest update on the location of BF1, believed to be the location of a large colonial store, and the possible location of the units excavated to yield the
 artifacts we are processing.   Sorry- no artifact of the day.

Once the cold air starts coming through the lab floor boards at Burch House, it is time to move to a warmer location - the second floor of the Courthouse.  So December 4 Denise, Evelyn, Julie, Carol, and Esther packed up the supplies and moved the lab.  Then we started sorting through some of the artifacts that we had been processing before our move.
That gave us the artifact for the day - an long unbroken stem from an eighteenth century white clay tobacco pipe that had been retrieved from BF1.  This location is believed to be the site of a colonial store.  We forgot to check the interior bore size.

November 27 everyone brought food for lunch to go with the pizza Esther had bought to celebrate our 900 hours of volunteering for Charles County. 
Rather than having lab Denise, Elsie, Evelyn, Julie, and Carol decorated and cleaned up Burch House for the upcoming Holiday Trail.  Elsie and Carol provided greenery.  Elsie loaned us lights for both trees as well as hand crocheted ornaments to be used on one tree.  The other tree was decorated with paper ornaments CCASM members had made last year.
November 20 Denise, Elsie, Evelyn, and Carol finished bagging all the artifacts recovered from the print shop in front of Stagg Hall.  That is all except for a bag of mortar that still needs to be washed.  The artifact of the day is a small piece of Rockingham glazed ceramics that was produced from the mid-nineteenth to the early twentieth century.
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 https://americanartifacts.blog/.../glass-stemware-port.../)
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

December 15, 2017

Shell Button Manufacturing in 20th Century Delmarva

Jim Gibb

Between 1930 and 1990, Delaware and Maryland's Eastern Shore had a number of small factories that manufactured shell buttons using shells imported from Fiji, Australia, the Indian Ocean, and the upper Mississippi Valley.   

At the December 14 CCASM meeting Jim Gibb talked about the Smithsonian Institution's research into this obscure craft, focusing on the process of button making and the various conditions that first drew this industry to the region and then contributed to its demise.   Some of the research done can be seen at SERC Research Project: Making Buttons on Delmarva from Imported Shells

And Jim also brought examples of different types of shells that had been drilled to make button blanks or plugs, a bag of blanks that would have been used for very small buttons, and a few drill ends.

Hands-on Time
Shells with blanks removed
and drill ends
Dr James Gibb is the principal proprietor of Gibb Archaeological Consulting and is also a Smithsonian Research Associate.  Jim is one of the founding members of CCASM.

Attendance: 6

December 3, 2017

Burch House on 2017 Charles County Holiday Trail

On December 2 and 3 representatives from CCASM and from Charles County Planning hosted visitors at Burch House in historic Port Tobacco during the 2017 Charles County Holiday Trail.  We enjoyed sharing the history of this eighteenth-century house.  And we especially enjoyed talking about archaeology in Port Tobacco.

CCASM members decorated Burch House simply for the holidays in keeping with the house.  There was a lot of greenery and two trees - one decorated with crocheted ornaments (on loan from one of our members) and one with paper ornaments we had made.  To make it more festive hot cider and cookies were served.

Special thanks to Elsie, Evelyn, Esther, and Cathy for being there to talk with the visitors and for taking care of the refreshments.

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 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 ter.ps/belize.

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 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgdeH8HTW98 - 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 uas-test.umd.edu/

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.