Native site on Patuxent could date to 1000 B.C.
Was village visited by Ohio mound-builders?
June 13, 2010|
By Frank D. Roylance, The Baltimore Sun
When they first detected traces of an 800-year-old wigwam on a bluff over the Patuxent River last year, archaeologists celebrated what they said was the oldest human structure yet found in Maryland.
Now, deeper excavation at the site — the front lawn of a modest rental house — is yielding details of much earlier settlement, extending its history back to at least 3,000 years ago.
"As far as I know, it's older than anything in Maryland, Virginia and Delaware, perhaps the oldest structures in the Chesapeake region," said Ann Arundel County archaeologist Al Luckenbach, leader of the dig.
And that's just the age that's been established by carbon-14 dating. Slicing deeper in the sandy bluff overlooking the Patuxent's broad marsh, Luckenbach's crew has found stone tools suggesting that humans were exploiting the river's abundance as far back as 10,000 years ago.
Called Pig Point, the site is producing a gusher of ancient artifacts — decorated pottery, tools crafted from stone and bone, ornaments and food waste that have begun to fill in the details of life along the Patuxent River centuries before Europeans arrived.
"Some of the ceramics that have come out of this site are really just astounding," said Maureen Kavanagh, chief archaeologist at the Maryland Historical Trust and a specialist in ceramics.
There have been pot fragments with incised angular decorations or rims crimped like a pie crust — both different from any ever found in Maryland. Diggers found an intact paint pot the size of a child's fist, and a miniature, decorated pot the size of a thimble.
"These really have us scrambling to figure out what they represent," Kavanaugh said. "Some of these artifacts are one of a kind, and we don't have an easy way of fitting them into our mental template. … It's a great, great site."
Archaeologists say some of their discoveries are so exotic in this region that they suggest Pig Point was a center of trade among native people as far-flung as Ohio, Michigan and New York.
Even today, the town site overlooks broad expanses of wild rice and Tuckahoe — river plants that would have helped to feed the native people. Geese, heron, osprey, bald eagles still patrol the shores. Tiny fish roil the shallows.
Trash middens unearthed in the dig are yielding the remains of freshwater mussels, oysters, fish, beaver, muskrat, otter, deer, duck, nuts and more. Archaeologists have also found carbonized corn kernels, evidence of agriculture.
Rest of article.