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19 August 2011
10,000 years of human habitation in Maryland

For over three years a team of archaeologists has been digging at a site in Maryland (USA). The area is known as Pig Point and is a prehistoric Indian site. Initially, at the beginning of the dig they found post holes, which would have been associated with wigwams, dating from around 2,000 BCE to 1,200 BCE. These were, at the time, the oldest remains found in that State. But as they dug deeper the finds became even older and more exciting.
     This site is of particular importance, due to the way it is configured. With other sites excavated in Maryland it was found that there was only a shallow layer of archaeology, usually about 25 centimetres deep, with no stratfication or separation of periods of occupation.
     Pig Point site, however, located at the base of a bluff, is much deeper and has been deepened over the millennia by continuous fresh deposits of soil washed down from higher up the bluff. Each period was subsequently 'layered' and therefore easier to identify and date. Another advantage is the location. The site has natural boundaries and an abundance of vegetation, game and fish, which would have encouraged continuous occupation, bringing with it an equal abundance of artifacts. Add this to the layered effect and you have the near perfect setup for a detailed and accurate assessment of occupation of the area over thousands of years.
     Carbon-14 dating has confirmed that the most recent find, a stone hearth, is dated at approximately 7,300 BCE. The team is now looking to dig even deeper, going back to Paleo Indian times (approximately 18,000 to 8,000 BCE) when the first humans entered North American from Asia, via a land bridge. The team is fortunate that the owner of the land, who initially drew their attention to the artifacts he was finding, is as enthusiastic as they are about digging up his property!

Edited from The Baltimore Sun (14 August 2011)

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