Stone Tools and Environmental Reconstruction at the Indian Creek Site

Figure 1.  Projectile points from the Indian Creek V Site.

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

Bald Friar Petroglyphs

In this photograph, some of the petroglyphs can be clearly seen outlined in white (probably chalk).

Among the more enigmatic artifacts curated at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab are fragments of prehistoric rock art. Archaeological evidence of art dates back tens of thousands of years and has been an endless source of fascination for scholars, as well as the general public. The carved Venus of Willendorf figures, the painted bison at Lascaux, Chinese bronzeworks and other early artistic endeavors captivate and excite the human imagination. The recent discovery of 40,800 year old stenciled hands and painted dots in a Spanish cave is evidence that Neandertals may have been the first cave painters (Than 2012); it is almost certainly only a matter of time before future discoveries push the limits of early art even farther into the past. Continue reading

Experimental Archaeology at the Park

by Patricia Samford & Tim Thoman

If you visit the Indian Village over the next few days, you just might catch Village Manager Tim Thoman and park volunteers Marco de Pompa and Simon Gannon working hard to solve an archaeological mystery uncovered in the 1970s. Continue reading

Update on Prehistoric Pot

Back in November, we told you about a group of pottery sherds from a Native American site on Lower Mason Island in the Potomac River. Although the sherds had been bagged separately as if each belonged to a different vessel, MAC Lab curators discovered that many of the pieces fit together into three unusually large pots. One of the vessels has been reassembled as much as possible and, yup, it’s huge! The pot is decorated with cord wrapped stick impressions and is from the Late Woodland period (900 A.D. – 1600 A.D.). Man made holes that would have been used for hanging, or possibly mending, the pot are visible. This container may have stored food such as paw-paw, huckleberries, and blueberries; fruits naturally occurring on Lower Mason Island. Along with other prehistoric artifacts found on the same site including gaming stones, bone fishhooks, celts, shell and bone beads, and tobacco pipes made from local clay, this vessel gives us a glimpse into the daily lives of people who have come and gone.

Putting the puzzle together.

Reassembling history.

The completed vessel.

Get Ready for Children’s Day at JPPM!

The 1st Sunday of June every year, we invite you to enjoy Children’s Day at Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum. Activities include demonstrations and hands-on fun along with live entertainment, pony rides, games, food, and even an antique tractor parade. Stop by the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory, Public Archaeology site, and Indian Village for even more to see and learn! See you there!

Drilling the prehistoric way at the Indian Village.

See artifact conservation at the MAC Lab.

Play with a friend

Native American Puzzle

While rehousing (assessing and repackaging) a collection of prehistoric artifacts, the Curation staff at the MAC Lab discovered something verrrry interesting. The collection, from a Native American site on Mason Island (located in a chain of islands in the Potomac River), included many clay pottery sherds packaged separately, as if each came from a different vessel. Sharp-eyed State Curators noticed that the pieces fit together, like a large jigsaw puzzle, into what appears to be three unusually large pots. Two of the pots are tempered with crushed quartz and the third is shell tempered. All appear to be from the Late Woodland period (900 A.D. – 1600 A.D.) and are decorated with cord wrapped stick impressions.

Several fragments have drilled holes that would have been used for mending or suspension of the vessel.

These sherds, from one of the quartz tempered vessels, measure approx. 36”L and 17”H.

Reassembled, that’s a big pot!

Themed Tour of the MAC Lab

The Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory is offering special themed tours at “3:00 on the 30th” of select months throughout the summer. On the July 30th guided tour you will experience thousands of years of Native American history at our state-of-the-art conservation, curation, and research lab. This tour is free of charge and no reservation is required. Just stop on by at 3:00 on July 30th!

*DID YOU KNOW? Tours of the Lab are also available by reservation, for groups large and small, for a small fee. E-mail for more information.