Today I gave a talk to the University of Southampton’s Centre for Maritime Archaeology Research Group as part of our October Summer Fieldwork Seminar Series. The talk briefly discussed the work that we performed this past summer in the St. Mary’s River, followed by a discussion on fieldwork vs. theory and the importance of incorporating these two aspects of research in a meaningful way in order to fully assess the cultural components of archaeological study.
You can view the talk in two parts below:
Today we wrapped up the first season of fieldwork on the ballast distribution project. The site was covered by sediments and oyster beds, but we feel like we were able to get a better handle on its location, are working on creating site maps, and based on the amount of seventeenth-century artifacts in the area, believe that this site is definitely dating to that period, although the decade remains for now a mystery. Yesterday we were able to capture points on the site using a total station style transit, giving us a very accurate location for the site for future work, and today photographed and raised a few artifacts for analysis. These will be housed in the collections at Historic St. Mary’s City after treatment.
I would like to extend a big thank you to a number of people for making this project happen. Firstly, Dr. Regina Fadden and Dr. Henry Miller of Historic St. Mary’s City for all of their support, financial and otherwise. Secondly, to Dave Howe and the Institute of Maritime History for supplying me with their time and equipment, allowing this fieldwork to operate smoothly and well within budget. Jim Sanborn for the generous use of his Zodiac boat, without which travel to and from the site would have been more difficult (and far less fun). And lastly, but certainly not least, to all of the volunteers who came out to help assess and map this site: Bob Speir, Bob Jimenez, Carly Harmon, Dawn Cheshaek, and Jasmine Gollup. This work would not have been possible without any of these people, so my most sincere of gratitude to each person mentioned here.
Yesterday and today we managed to get the site staked out in the river. Buoys attached to the stakes will help us create a site map from the surface using a laser transit system, tied in to Maryland state grid points. This will give us an accurate site map with correct geo-spatial coordinates. One of our volunteers unfortunately had to return home last night, but I would like to thank Bob Speir for so graciously donating his time to the project! The all-volunteer crew working with us on this project has not only been instrumental in helping this fieldwork go forward, but they have done really amazing work. They have mostly come to us through the Institute of Maritime History, to which this project also owes a great deal of gratitude. The equipment that they have loaned to us was critical to preforming this work within a constrained budget, as we are trying to conserve much of what we currently have for the next season of fieldwork.
With the site located yesterday afternoon, we spent today setting up a baseline on the site and preforming a visual survey of the site. We located a high concentration of Dutch red brick, and a number of ballast stones.
This short clip shows what we see as we scan the site. As you can see, the river bed consists of a lot of old oyster shells.
Here are some images of artifacts we found that we believe are associated with the site:
Tomorrow, we will begin the task of mapping out the site, which is complicated as the majority of the site is concealed under a thick bed of oyster shells. To start, we will try to better define our baseline, and then attempt to probe for the stones. Once we have the area fully delineated, we will be shooting in the points with a shore-based TotalStation (transit) and draw this out.
We started diving operations yesterday afternoon with myself and Robert Spier, running transects in the greater site location. We could not make a visual confirmation of the site, nor locate it through probing. Today, we were back at it with a larger crew, searching to the south of yesterdays transects. The morning yielded no results, but after a quick look at the site plotted on Google Maps we took some measurements from the beach and then out into the river and dropped our dive flag where we thought we would locate it. Then, swimming in a circular search pattern, the tell-tale signs started to pop up! Several sizable stones, appearing from the cortex to be a European flint were sighted, and three Dutch sugar bricks were also seen. These are very important, as not much foreign brick was imported into St. Mary’s City in the 17th century. Most of the brick was locally made. Dutch red bricks are of a smaller size and have a sandier appearance than the locally made bricks, so they are easy to identify. As these were found in association with the site in the past, we can be sure now that we are on it.
Tomorrows plan is to start defining the edges of the site. We will deploy weighted buoys along the edges, creating an outline at the water’s surface which we can then plot using a laser transit system. Hopefully we will have a few images or videos to add to tomorrow’s blog to spice things up as well.