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10 May 2009
Archaeologists uncover ancient site in Maryland

County archaeologists searching for clues about Native American settlements in what became Anne Arundel County (Maryland, USA) have hit a trove of pottery, arrowheads and perhaps even the remnants of a wigwam near Jug Bay. The only problem is, they haven't hit their specific target: evidence of the Middle Woodland Period settlement from roughly zero to 900 CE. Instead, there are plenty of shards of earlier and later settlements, including amazing finds like 10,000-year-old spear points.
     "I thought we'd find plenty of it here, but not yet," said Al Luckenbach, county archaeologist. "Just a lot of everything else." The dig started when archaeologists and volunteers from the county's Lost Towns Project dug a series of test pits to determine if there was indeed any evidence of prehistoric settlement on the site. After finding some arrowheads and pottery shards, most decorated with patterns scored in the side of coil-style pots while still wet, wider pits were dug. One turned up the shells of now locally extinct freshwater clams piled in the corner of the hole right next to what seems to be a fire pit. "I was thinking we could have a little prehistoric clambake here," Luckenbach quipped.
     Another pit, 5 feet by 5 feet, bore more shards and arrowheads, evidence of Late Woodland Period settlement. The same pit has yielded other evidence of Indian settlement: a telltale pattern of dark, round spots in the earth, indicative of the saplings stuck into the ground to build a wigwam. Luckenback thinks the wigwam dates from 500 CE and could be the oldest structure ever found in Maryland.
     Luckenbach believes generations of Native Americans came to the spot along the Patuxent to feast on the water's bounty. "For 10,000 years, we think, they were here on this promontory overlooking the river for a period in spring or fall, then would move on to another camp," he said, perhaps working inland to take advantage of berries, deer and other game.
     The study, funded by a grant from the Maryland Historical Trust beginning last year, is delving into the Middle Woodland Period. Some 500 sites have been noted across the county over the years. Luckenbach and the Lost Towns crew have mapped about 150 likely sites, and hope to narrow their focus down to about "seven of the best ones where we find intact Middle Woodland settlement."

Source: The Capital (4 May 2009)

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