The Biggs Ford Site (18FR14) is a large, well-preserved, multi-component Native American village site located on the Monocacy River in Frederick County, Maryland. This possibly palisaded settlement was occupied by peoples of the Montgomery Complex (1000-1450 AD) and the Luray Complex (1300-1500 AD). Biggs Ford is one of only a handful of large Native American villages on the Monocacy River, and is the only known site in the Potomac River drainage that has major occupations by both the Montgomery and Luray complex peoples. Distinctly-shaped pits at the site, such as the elongated ones associated specifically with the Montgomery Complex, provide a unique opportunity to compare the community structures, economy, and social relationships of these two groups. Furthermore, the majority of the archaeological deposits at Biggs Ford remain intact, as it was only partially excavated.
The Biggs Ford Site has been known to relic collectors and amateur archaeologists for decades. Spencer O. Geasey first conducted limited sub-surface testing at the site in 1955, when he discovered several refuse-filled pits below the plow zone.
In October 1969, Geasey notified the Division of Archeology of the Maryland Geological Survey (MGS) that a proposed sewer interceptor from Walkersville to Frederick would cross the central portion of the site. With permission of the landowner, MGS conducted excavations within the pipeline’s impact area at 18FR14 from October 1969 until July 1970. A road grader was first used to remove 25 to 35 centimeters of plow zone from an area measuring 230-by-7-meters. Numerous subsurface features were revealed in the subsoil, including hundreds of post molds and 30 additional features, such as round and elongated pits, two rectangular structures with rounded edges, and ten Luray Complex burials that contained 18 individuals. Only a few post molds were cross-sectioned, but all other feature types within the trench were completely excavated. All soil was screened through ¼-inch mesh, and large samples of soil were removed to the laboratory and washed through fine window screen.
A total of 31,251 artifacts were recovered from the Biggs Ford Site. Materials from the Montgomery Complex include grit-tempered Shepard ceramics and large triangular rhyolite projectile points. Artifacts from the Luray Complex consist of shell-tempered Keyser ceramics, limestone-tempered Page ceramics, and small quartz triangular points.
The 7,630 lithic artifacts recovered from 18FR14 were predominantly manufactured from quartz, rhyolite, quartzite, sandstone, and chert. Including the burial proveniences, the 490 projectile points include 25 Madison, 20 Potomac, 8 Levanna, 2 Piscataway, 2 Susquehanna Broadspear, 1 LeCroy, and 1 Kirk. In addition, 6,613 pieces of debitage, 37 bifaces, 10 drills, 7 scrapers, and 3 steatite vessel fragments were recovered.
Four thousand five hundred and fifty-one ceramic sherds were found at 18FR14. Late Woodland ceramics include 1,108 Shepard, 755 Keyser, 66 Page, and 24 Shenks Ferry sherds, while three Vinette I and two Selden Island sherds from the Early Woodland indicate an earlier component at the site. Pottery from 18FR14 exhibits fabric impressed, cord-marked, and smoothed over cord-marked surface treatments, while surface decoration consists of cord-wrapped stick impressions, castellations, punctates, and incised lines. Sixteen ceramic pipe fragments, seven with incised, impressed, or cord-marked decorations, were also recovered.
Excellent faunal preservation at Bigg’s Ford resulted in the recovery of 10,433 fragments of bone and shell. A wide variety of animals, including deer, elk, dog, rabbit, squirrel, muskrat, beaver, terrapin, box turtle, musk turtle, and unidentified fish, were found in subsurface features. In addition to food resources, Bigg’s Ford residents utilized animals for other purposes, as shown by a pierced turtle shell. Five hundred and twenty-one snail shell fragments and 305 mussel shell fragments were also recovered.
Numerous artifacts were included in the burials at the Biggs Ford Site. For example, a complete Keyser pot with punctated lugs and an incised rim, and a possible circular ceramic pendant, were recovered. Projectile points include four unidentified rhyolite, three unidentified quartz, three rhyolite Levanna, one quartz Madison, and one chert Madison. Other flaked tools included two rhyolite net sinkers and one quartz biface. Five red ochre fragments, four yellow ochre fragments, two celts, and a slate gorget were also found. Tobacco pipe fragments included a sandstone platform pipe base with an incised line, and cord-marked and undecorated ceramic pipe bowls. Also recovered were the remnants of a possible charred bow, polished bone fragments, antler fragments, and a carved bone in the shape of a bird. Numerous shell items were recovered from the burials, including nine pierced marginella beads, 66 flat disc shell beads, and a circular shell pendant. Access to the funerary artifacts is restricted due to their sensitive nature, and photographs are not available.
This site has a small collection of original documents. All are in good condition, with minimal dirt and staining. The records are housed in one letter-sized archival clamshell box.
Excavation records are limited to a feature register, feature maps, and site maps. Other records include: maps; wood, pollen, and burial analyses; miscellaneous notes; correspondence; and artifact catalogs. The records are, however, incomplete, and have not been included in the relational database. All records have been scanned as .PDF documents and can be accessed online. There is no associated report.
Due to the sensitive nature of the site as a cemetery, photographic records of burials and associated grave goods are not available for public viewing. Original images consist of slides and prints, and are housed at the MAC Lab.
- Bastian, Tyler
- 1974 Preliminary Notes on the Biggs Ford Site, Frederick County, Maryland. Manuscript on file at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory.
- Kavanagh, Maureen
- 2001 Late Woodland Settlement in the Monocacy River Region. Maryland Archeology 37(1):1-12.
- No documents
- Site Report (22 pages, 1.09 MB)
- Catalog Sheets, Numbers 114-177 (121 pages, 55.0 MB)
- Catalog Sheets, Numbers 1-39 (88 pages, 43.2 MB)
- Catalog Sheets, Numbers 40-113 (124 pages, 60.1 MB)
- Archaeological Specimen Catalog (23 pages, 0.61 MB)
- Correspondence (12 pages, 5.38 MB)
- Feature Log (9 pages, 1.72 MB)
- Notes (4 pages, 0.60 MB)
- Pollen Analysis (2 pages, 0.06 MB)
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