Two or three times a year, staff at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab will get a call from a local citizen who has been beachcombing along the Chesapeake Bay at Brownie’s Beach. While better known as a place for hunting fossils from the Miocene, the calls we get are about the small, colorful glass beads that are also a common find there. Many people think they have discovered Indian trade beads, while in actuality the beads are of a more recent vintage. Two likely explanations for why the beads are present at Brownie Beach have been posited: that they are washing up from a 20th-century ship that wrecked nearby or that they were souvenirs from the now-defunct amusement park once located just to the north, in Chesapeake Beach.
Today’s thrill seekers flock to Six Flags, Disney World or Busch Gardens in search of lightning-fast roller coasters and laser light shows. The precursors of these modern attractions were outdoor amusement parks, often located in waterfront resorts. Here, the double attractions of sea bathing and carnival-type rides and games drew large crowds in the summers. Continue reading →
Figure 1. Projectile points from the Indian Creek V Site.
We probably all have an “arrowhead” or two kicking around in a drawer or shoebox tucked somewhere into the back of a closet. I remember finding points similar to the ones depicted here while picking butterbeans and tomatoes in the family garden when I was a child. Now that I am a full-blown archaeologist, I have been thoroughly trained to call them “points” rather than “arrowheads” (because some of them were affixed to spears and knives rather than arrows). Another thing that I have learned is that the sharpened edges of points and other cutting tools can be used to help reconstruct the diet and the environment of the peoples that made and used them.
The Indian Creek V Site (18PR94) in Prince George’s County, Maryland dates to what archaeologists call the Archaic Period (9500 B.C. – 1250 B.C.). Excavations there revealed that Maryland Indians returned to the site regularly over thousands of years to obtain plants from the surrounding floodplains and wetlands. A peat bog on the site preserved the largest collection of Archaic plant remains yet found in the region, of great value in reconstructing past environments (LeeDecker and Koldehoff 1991). An assemblage of seeds, pieces of nutshell, and small charred wood fragments was recovered at the Indian Creek V Site. Over 10,000 fragments from 63 different plant species represented a wide variety of fruit, tubers, starchy seeds, nuts, shoots, and leaves. These plants would have been used for food and also as medicines, smoking material, and insect repellant. In addition, a pollen core from a nearby peat deposit provided a vegetation record for the terminal Pleistocene and Holocene epochs, allowing a detailed environmental reconstruction. Continue reading →