44th Annual Spring Symposium on Archeology

Archeology in Southern Maryland

Presented by the

Archeological Society of Maryland, Inc.,
Historic St. Mary's City
and the
Maryland Historical Trust, Office of Archeology

Saturday, April 4, 2009
Visitor's Center Auditorium at
Historic St. Mary's City

Patricia Seitz Teacher of the Year Award
Robert Hines, Richard Montgomery High School

The Patricia Seitz, Teacher of the Year Award, was presented to Robert Hines of Richard Montgomery High School in recognition of his years of work integrating archeology into his classroom work.

A Brief History of Archaeology in Maryland’s First Capital
Silas D. Hurry, Historic St. Mary’s City Commission (HSMCC)

This presentation will detail the history of archaeological investigations in St. Mary’s City from the period of antiquarian enquiry through the modern era of scientific archaeology. A range of interesting characters will be presented and the results of their explorations explained. Much of this story will focus on the past forty years when St. Mary’s has provided a virtual laboratory for the development of the discipline of historical archaeology.

Three Decades of Archaeology on St. John’s Freehold
Ruth M. Mitchell, HSMCC

Archaeology conducted in the 1970s revealed a story-and-a-half English framed dwelling, known as St. John’s. The 1638 building reflects English architectural practices that were soon modified. Post-in-the-ground additions and support structures were found throughout the site. Recent excavations shed new light on the architectural changes found throughout the site.

The Richard E. Stearns Memorial Lecture

The Richard E. Stearns Memorial Lecture is named in honor of Richard E Stearns (1902-1969), curator of the Department of Archeology at the Natural History Society of Maryland for more than 30 years. Mr. Stearns located numerous archeological sites in the Chesapeake area, and carefully documented his surface and excavated finds. He published numerous archeological articles and several monographs, and donated his collection to the Smithsonian Institution. A commercial artist by profession, he was nonetheless a pioneer in Maryland archeology, instrumental in recording much of Maryland prehistory.


Burial Archaeology in the Chapel Field at St. Mary’s City
Timothy B. Riordan, HSMCC

Excavations began in the Chapel Field in 1983 and evidence of burials was immediately obvious. In the years since, HSMC has identified over 250 graveshafts and evidence suggests that there may be as many as 1000 people buried in this field. Starting with the spectacular discovery of the lead coffins in 1990, burial archaeology has been an important part of understanding the use and meaning of the Chapel site. Since 1990, 65 burials have been excavated and the remains of 75 individuals removed. Because of the unique circumstances of the Chapel Field site, it has been possible to divide the burials into three equal periods, spanning 1638-1730. Insights on coffin shape, use, and construction are outlined. The context of “shroud pins,” commonly found in 17th-century burials, is explored. The significance of changes in burial patterns through the 17th century is considered.

The Iris McGillivray Memorial Lecture

Iris McGillivray was a founding member of the Archeological Society of Maryland, Inc., ably serving the Society for over thirty years as Secretary, President, Newsletter Editor, Field Session Registrar, and Membership Secretary. She is perhaps best known, loved, and respected for her organization of the annual Spring Symposium, first held in 1965, arranging all aspects of the day-long program. In 1991 Iris was presented with the Society's William B. Marye Award to honor her services to archeology in Maryland.


A Comparative Analysis of a 17th Century Dutch Plantation Site on the Eastern Shore to Known 17th Century Archeological Sites in the Upper Chesapeake Bay
Bruce Thompson, Maryland Historical Trust

In recent decades, archeologists have probed ever deeper into the extant archeological evidence for colonial life in middle to late 17th century Maryland. Geographically, the key focus of those efforts has been on sites along the western shores of the Chesapeake Bay (the Bennett’s Point site on the Wye River being the exception). Using primary documents, artifact analysis and Maryland Historical Trust’s “Comparative Archaeological Study of Colonial Chesapeake Culture” (developed by a consortium of researchers from a number of regional institutions and hosted by The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation), this paper offers a comparative look at a middle to late 17th-century Dutch site called the Grieb Site (18KE83) located on the Chester River.

Into the Zekiah: The Untold History
Julia A. King, Scott M. Strickland, and Michael J. Sullivan

Perhaps one of the most interesting yet understudied regions in Maryland's early colonial history is the Zekiah Swamp located In Charles County. The Zekiah -- an ecologically diverse freshwater bottomland swamp 20 miles in length -- was the setting for some of the most colorful events in the colony's history. The Zekiah was home to a fascinating mix of people. Here, Lord Baltimore built a summer house where he could be close to his dear friend, Major William Boarman. It was on Major Boarman's plantation that Irish Nell, Lord Baltimore's servant, married Saltwater Charles, a newly arrived African. When Baltimore tried to talk Nell out of the marriage -- after all, she risked enslaving herself and her children -- she told the proprietor to buzz off and was married that day. About five miles north upstream from Boarman's, Baltimore had relocated Maryland's Piscataway Indians into the Zekiah Fort, hoping to provide them some protection from aggressive northern tribes and land hungry colonist. John Pryor ran a store at the Zekiah's southern end, trading not just with the colonists but the Piscataway. The county seat was located here, too, with a relatively finely appointed courthouse, and a race track was maintained for several years on the courthouse property. And that dreadful turncoat, Josias Fendall, owned land in the Zekiah.

For all of this interesting history, very little archaeology has been done in the Zekiah Swamp. Beginning in late 2007, a partnership involving St. Mary's College of Maryland, the College of Southern Maryland, and a consortium of interested businessmen in Charles County began a long-term project to map the Zekiah's patent history and identify important 17th-century sites. This presentation describes those sites that have been found, including the Court House, John Pryor's store, and Johnsontown, as well as the progress to date searching for Major Boarman's dwelling plantation, Lord Baltimore's summer house, and, most significantly, the Zekiah Fort.

Discovering Port Tobacco and the Annual Field Session
James G. Gibb, Port Tobacco Archaeological Project

Less than two years of archaeological survey and testing at the Colonial town site of Port Tobacco in Charles County has revealed the probable location of Potobac (mapped by Captain John Smith in 1608), a previously unknown Colonial period cemetery, several early to mid-18th century house sites, the County’s third generation jail (1859-1897), and several well-defined Archaic sites. This illustrated presentation will summarize the combined archival and archaeological research completed to date and discuss the annual field session which will occur at Port Tobacco from May 22 through June 1.