Field School 2016 – Week 9
Travis Parno — Chief Archaeologist
“Rainy Nights and Tidewater Archaeology Weekend”
As we approached our penultimate week of work for the 2016 Archaeological Field School, we looked forward with anticipation to our upcoming Tidewater Archaeology Weekend (TAW) event and with trepidation at the week’s weather forecast. Much of the week was spent preparing for TAW, which meant opening new excavation units and removing topsoil to reach the artifact-rich plowzone that lies below. This, at least, was our intention. However, in three of the new units that we opened we encountered brick materials that may date to the Brome family’s occupation of the site (beginning c. 1840). One of the features appears to be a small circular line of bricks that likely functioned as decorative edging around a tree. In another location further south, after we removed a section of brick paving that once led from the Brome House driveway to the house, we discovered a scatter of small brick fragments and brick dust. We also found similar refuse in another new unit placed to the west of our excavation area. We’re still puzzling over the appearance of all of this brick material; it seems to suggest that a small brick feature was demolished at some point and its remains were distributed across a portion of our site, perhaps by years of plowing.
In the midst of pondering these mysteries and prepping for TAW, we spent some time away from the site on our final field trip of the season. On Wednesday afternoon, we traveled to the Newtowne Neck Manor House where George Matisick, Chairman of Newtowne Manor House Restoration Committee, and HSMC Special Projects Archaeologist Ruth Mitchell gave a use a tour of this incredible building.
The Manor House, together with nearby St. Francis Xavier Church and associated farmlands, played an important role in Maryland’s Jesuit community for hundreds of years. Although the Manor House is badly in need of repairs, its future is supported by an active restoration effort (led in part by our own Ruth Mitchell) that seeks to save this important building from future decay. During our tour, we were able to enter the structure, examine its central passage construction, and hear about the efforts to preserve the house. Upon the tour’s conclusion, we traveled down the road to Mulberry Fields, an 18th-century property consisting of a beautiful Georgian home and associated dependencies, outbuildings, and agricultural acreage.
The property is privately owned and occupied so we felt incredibly fortunate to enjoy our “behind-the-scenes” tour.
Our progress towards preparing for TAW was interrupted mid-week by overnight thunderstorms. Much of our morning on Friday was spent pumping and bailing a huge amount of water out of our excavation units and repairing damage done to the units by water that breached our plastic coverings.
With forecasts looking grim for Saturday and Sunday, we crossed our fingers and hoped for the best come Tidewater Archaeology Weekend…
And what a successful event it was! Thanks to the tireless efforts of many among the HSMC museum staff, our site looked great and was outfitted with three tents that enabled us and our visitors to stay dry in the brief spell of Saturday rain and cool(er) in the shade of the weekend’s remaining sun.
Throughout the weekend, we had guests from Maryland, Virginia, as well as some who hailed from as far away from Germany. We enjoyed visits by TAW veterans, such as Mike Merling and Gary Jones, who have been attending TAW for years. It’s always fun to reconnect with our regulars! Visitors young and old worked the screens with our field school students, sharing stories and finding artifacts.
And we did indeed find some great artifacts. In addition to an abundance of brick fragments, glass, and iron nails, we discovered some particularly intriguing objects.
From 17th-century German stoneware to 19th-century Whieldon ware, our ceramic finds represented much of the Calvert House site’s history. We also found an intact glass case bottle base in plowzone, a rare find given that plowing often destroys such fragile objects. Throughout the weekend, visitors pulled fun finds such as porcelain buttons, pieces of lead shot, and projectile point parts from our screens.
With only an hour remaining in the day on Sunday, one visitor found something particularly neat. Howard “Ed” Wall Jr., grandfather of field school student Alaina Wall, had spent most of Saturday and Sunday with us, during which time he shared many stories about his ancestry and his family’s lineage in Maryland and beyond. Late Sunday afternoon, Ed pulled a piece of a molded ceramic pipe bowl from the screen. Upon closer inspection, we determined that the fragment was part of a pipe molded in a style known as “Pikeman and Minerva” or “Crusader and Huntress.”
Visible on our fragment are the legs of someone wearing a flowing garment next to the head and forelegs of a dog. These pipes were manufactured in France and were popular between 1670 and 1700.
We have found other examples of this style at St. John’s, Smith’s Ordinary, the Print House, and elsewhere on the Calvert House site. You can read more about this fascinating pipe style in a dedicated article on our website.
After a busy week and wonderful weekend, we thank all of our staff for supporting Tidewater Archaeology Weekend and all of our visitors for making the event such a success.
We hope to see you at next year’s TAW, if not before! Next week, we wrap up our field school for the summer…