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17 August 2008
American Indian artifacts found in Maryland

While many today consider Potomac their home, in 3000 BCE, so did early Americans. Temporarily, at least. Archaeologists and volunteers this summer are excavating a prehistoric 'rock shelter' within the Blockhouse Point Conservation Park in Potomac (Maryland, USA), and learning more about the American Indians that lived near the overhanging rock formation where the prehistoric people once lived.
     "Rock shelters are like prehistoric hotels," explained county archaeologist Jim Sorensen, who attended a dig at the site. The nomadic people probably chose the spot, near the Potomac River, as a temporary shelter while they hunted and gathered, Sorensen said. Then, they would move on. Based on clues from small pieces of pottery and projectile points - sharpened pieces of stone - collected at the site, it was used from 3000 BCE to 1600 CE.
     Small caves are carved out of the surface of the yawning rock formation, tunneling back into the structure, which is about a storey high. At the mouths of the caves, black marks indicate where the American Indians who used the shelter made their fires. "You can see why they liked it," said Heather Bouslog, an archaeologist with the cultural resources stewardship section of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission's stewardship division. When her team excavated the site in the rain, the rock formation kept the group well-protected, she said.
     The site is being excavated as part of a yearly field session conducted by Bouslog and Sorensen's group. The goal of the field sessions is to gain more information about the county's prehistoric population, while at the same time educating residents about archaeological methods. Residents pay $20 a day to take part in the field session, which takes place for two weeks.
     The last time the Potomac site was excavated was in 2004, though it was discovered in 2002. "You knew it was used by prehistoric people because you can see the artifacts right on the surface," Bouslog said.
So far, one of the most significant finds has been a Savannah River spearhead. For more information or to volunteer with the county's archaeology programs, visit www.parkarchaeology.org

Source: Gazette.net (6 August 2008)

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