Back to Dispatches from Field School


Field School 2015 – Week 1
Ruth Mitchell


“Pass me a Fork!”



Field school students learning about colonial period glass bottles


We just completed a successful first week of the 2015 HSMC Archaeological Field School. The beginning of the summer will be spent excavating around the Farthing’s Garden area, where we are planning to put the Brent Pavilion. This new Pavilion will serve as an excellent place for school groups to gather under, out of the rain. We don’t expect to find a lot of historic period occupation in this area, which was archaeologically surveyed during the 1980s prior to Farthing’s Ordinary construction. Like most of the sites in St. Mary’s, there is a fair amount of Native American material present. Colonial period artifacts are very low in density, based on the completed survey work.


A student discussing a delicate ceramic with Henry Miller





The first portion of the Field School program was spent in the lab, with Silas Hurry and Henry Miller presenting the students with a detailed series of lectures on the material culture that we find throughout St. Mary’s City.




While touring the landscape, students explore the 18th-century Mackall Barn

The students spent some time touring around St. Mary’s City, seeing a number of our reconstructed sites and learning about the 17th-century capital of Maryland.




The field work begins!



Everyone was excited to get out into the field and start digging! Our first day in the field was a crisp 90 degrees, and the students got their chance to begin learning about soils, shovels, vertical control and provenience.  While our excavation units are near the Farthing’s Garden area, they are also located adjacent to the reconstructed ca. 1676 State House, where a lot of HSMC activities take place. We have already found remnants of 20th and 21st –century events: beer bottle fragments, pull tabs, and wedding decoration objects. There is very little Colonial period material, but some Native American lithics (debris from stone tool making).





One artifact in particular caught everyone’s attention: an intriguing two-tined fork, made of a copper alloy material that is in remarkably good condition. After spending some time admiring this unusual artifact we began doing a bit of research. There is a nearly identical example that is found at the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology in the University of California, Berkeley collection. The date of the Hearst Museum object is uncertain, but it is considered to be from Italy. Additional searching found that this particular object has been reproduced. Is the one we found an original object, or is it one lost by a reenactor at some point? If this is an authentic object, how would such an unusual and refined artifact have come to St. Mary’s City? In either case, we consider it a fantastic find for the first day of excavating! We hope to learn more about the artifact, but for now it remains a mystery as to its country of origin and date of manufacture.


A copper alloy two-tined fork