Field School 2016 – Week 1
Travis Parno — Chief Archaeologist
“Field School Begins”
The first week of the 2016 Historic St. Mary’s City Archaeological Field School was a successful period of introduction, both to the history of Historic St. Mary’s City and to each other. This was the first of ten weeks that our field school team will spend investigating a portion of the Calvert House site.
The Calvert House site is a fascinating property that includes the buried (and since partially reconstructed) remains of Leonard Calvert’s home. Construction of the building began in the mid-1630s. Originally, the home was a modest hall-and-parlor house with central fireplace, but soon it was expanded to become one of the largest wood-frame houses in Maryland.
The Calvert House was home to multiple residents following Leonard Calvert’s death in 1647, but by the early 1660s, it took on a new role as the Country’s House, so named because it was owned by the colony (or “Country”) and functioned as the first official statehouse of Maryland. Because it wasn’t needed as a governmental meeting space year-round, the building was leased as an “ordinary” or inn, and thus doubled as a place where visitors and travelers could rest and enjoy a warm meal.
After the construction of the new brick statehouse in 1676, the colony’s official use of the Calvert (or Country’s) House declined. Documentary records tell us that by the end of the 17th century, the structure was sorely in need of repairs and, following the move of Maryland’s capital to what would become Annapolis, it fell into disuse. In 1841, Dr. John Brome built a large plantation house over the buried foundations of the Calvert House and Dr. Brome, his family, and their servants and slaves lived on the property for many years. Dr. Brome’s house was moved down to Rosecroft Road in 1994 and now functions as an inn.
With such a rich and varied history, it is no wonder that the archaeologists of HSMC have been studying the Calvert House site for many years. Our work this summer continues in that tradition. Specifically, we have targeted an area north of the original Calvert House where previous field schools uncovered a curious feature.
This oval-shaped trench may have been dug to install a fence. Based on the shape of the fence and the presence of at least one post-hole near the center of the ring, we speculate that this is an animal baiting ring. Animal baiting was a popular pastime throughout much of history and included cock fighting, dog fighting, bull baiting, etc. It was often practiced in the vicinity of taverns or inns, where patrons could enjoy a drink and watch an event. Based on the feature’s proximity to the Calvert House and the building’s former life as an inn, an animal baiting ring would not be out of the ordinary (no pun intended).
Our goal for the season is to build on the work of previous field schools by excavating sections of the northern side of the feature to determine its precise shape. We also would not be surprised to find evidence of spectators, perhaps in the form of pipe fragments and pieces of drinking vessels or glass bottles, in the areas around the trench.
We have big plans for the fieldwork, but before we could put our shovels into the ground, we had a lot of material to cover. The students received a tour of the property and then spent most of their first week in the laboratory, enjoying a series of lectures and hands-on training in the history of HSMC, artifact identification, archaeological recording, and basic field methods.
By the end of the week, they were well-informed and ready to head out into the field. On Saturday, the final day of Week 1, the students traveled to the Calvert House site and used a surveying tool called a total station to layout excavation units on our site-wide grid. They left for the weekend tired, but eager to begin excavation at the beginning of Week 2…