The Role of Tobacco Agriculture in Maryland


18CV83 pipe

Tobacco pipe from the late seventeenth- to early eighteenth-century King’s Reach Site (18CV83).

Drive along any country road in southern Maryland and you are sure to see examples of this region’s distinctive agricultural architecture.  These large vertical sided barns, constructed for the air curing of tobacco, are important reminders of Maryland’s agricultural history.  A less iconic type of reminder—the humble white clay tobacco pipe—does not have the visual impact of the barns, but is present on virtually all archaeological sites dating from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries.  The Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab has tens of thousands of pipe fragments in its collections.  This pipe, from the late seventeenth-century King’s Reach Site (18CV83), is one of our more complete examples; the very fragility of the unglazed, low-fired clay means that they are often found broken into numerous fragments.  I have chosen this simple clay pipe to represent the role that tobacco cultivation played in Maryland’s history. Continue reading

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1748 – A Bad Year for the Smith Family


The late summer and early fall of 1748 was apparently a difficult period for the Smith family, who lived at the Smith’s St. Leonard archaeological site. Between August 28th and October 22nd of that year 3, possibly 4, members of the family died from unknown causes. At least, causes unknown to us. Continue reading

Practical Magic at Smith’s St. Leonard?


Excavation of the storehouse cellar unit at Smith’s St. Leonard is almost complete. This week’s surprise find was a broken French Louis XIV 5 sol coin. The silver coin was found in a posthole which extends another 3 feet beneath the floor of the cellar. Though broken in half and worn, enough markings are present to identify the coin, which had a very brief manufacture period of 1702-1704. Continue reading

Update from Smith St. Leonard Site


cellar floor
Alex Glass contemplates mapping the cellar floor brick.

The field crew has been taking advantage of this unseasonably nice weather to continue exploring the presumed storehouse cellar at the Smith St. Leonard site. The test unit now reaches almost six feet below the ground surface and the hoped-for brick floor (see blog entry from November 19th) has finally emerged. The projecting area of brick at the lower right of the photograph is either part of a bulkhead entrance into the cellar or part of a brick hearth. Diagnostic artifacts remain elusive, so we are still unsure when the cellar was filled.

Remote Sensing Success at the Smith’s St. Leonard Site


Earlier in 2012, JPPM hired geophysicist Tim Horsley to conduct three different types of remote sensing—ground penetrating radar, magnetometer, and soil resistivity—across the Smith’s St. Leonard site. These types of geophysical surveys can help reveal the locations of subsurface disturbances such as wells, privies, and building cellars prior to putting a shovel into the ground, and are a valuable tool for helping plan excavation. Tim observed numerous subsurface anomalies, including a large, deep anomaly in the area where an eighteenth-century storehouse may have been located.

Tim Horsley resistivity meter, with Christa
Volunteer Christa Conant assists Tim Horsley with soil resistivity testing at the Smith’s St. Leonard site.

Preliminary GPR south end
The red outlined box at the lower right depicts the projected location of the cellar.

Alex, Ed and Annette worked throughout the summer and fall to remove the overlying plowed soil from areas where Tim’s testing had found anomalies. In every location that Tim predicted a subsurface feature, the digging showed the accuracy of his testing. As October drew to an end, the decision was made to test the possible storehouse cellar. Tim predicted that this 20 by 20 ft. feature would contain large quantities of brick at a depth of about four feet.

18CV91 - 2233F Alex excavating in cellar(3)
Field technician Alex Glass has the unenviable task of balancing on brick rubble as she digs!

And sure enough, after several days of careful troweling, Alex and Annette came upon a layer of brick rubble, about three feet under the ground surface! Way to go, Tim! The rubble has been removed and preliminary testing suggests that the cellar fill extends at least another foot or so deeper, possibly bottoming out on a brick floor. Unfortunately, the cellar soil has not been particularly artifact-rich, so we don’t yet have a good date on the filling of the cellar. In addition to wine bottle glass, oyster shell, and a few fragmented white clay tobacco pipes, the crew did find this nice brass buckle. Curator Sara Rivers Cofield believes it could have been part of a horse harness. We hope that continued work in the cellar will yield further clues about the function of the building and its construction and destruction dates.

buckle 18CV91 - 2233G
Ornately shaped brass buckle from the cellar fill.

Another Mystery Solved! The King George Wine Glass


A few months ago at the Smith’s St. Leonard site, volunteers and crew discovered a small colorless glass fragment. Finding glass at an archaeological site is not that unusual since it preserves fairly well in the ground. So what makes this little fragment so blog worthy you ask? This piece is very thick, with a square shape and curved figures molded on the sides. We were a little stumped when the piece was initially found. What type of vessel was it from? Is the molding a design or letters? Is it even contemporary to the site (1711-1754)? Left scratching our heads, the artifact was put back into its bags and we continued with fieldwork.

king george glass 1king george glass 2 Continue reading