The Fischer Site (18AN500) is a late 19th - through early 20th- century African- American tenant family residence in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. The site contained the remains of a log structure on a sandstone foundation, dating between the 1880s and the early 1920s, with an associated garden, as well as a prehistoric transient hunting camp used from the Late Archaic through the Late Woodland periods. The last tenant, Daniel Simons, a laborer on the Fischer farm, his wife, his son, his son’s wife, and their four children occupied the site from 1913 to the early 1920s, when they left to work on a neighboring farm. This family appears typical of many landless African-Americans in the Chesapeake region at the beginning of the 20th century.
Archaeologists investigating the Fischer site combined intensive documentary research, oral history, and intrasite spatial analysis to record the history, culture, and lifeways of its former residents. The Fischer Site has the potential to provide information about the lifeways of rural African-Americans in early 20th-century Anne Arundel County. After emancipation, most African-Americans in this county continued to work as laborers or tenant farmers, and occupied the same quarters as they did before. Their low economic status is reflected in the ordinary utilitarian character of the majority of artifacts recovered. Excellent archaeological context makes this site important for comparison to other contemporary sites in Maryland and Virginia.
The Fischer Site was first identified by the Maryland Geological Survey prior to the construction of Interstate 97 between Baltimore and Annapolis. A Phase I survey conducted in 1980 identified the remains of a small structure on the Joseph Fischer farm. Its stone foundation measured 12 by 16 feet, with a brick chimney. Project archaeologist Terrance Epperson suggested that this structure may have housed former property owner Benjamin Lusby’s slaves or post-bellum tenant farmers or laborers. The alignment of the proposed highway was changed to avoid the structural remains, but it would still impact sections of the archaeological site.
The Maryland Geological Survey then undertook Phase II investigations at 18AN500 under the direction of Silas Hurry. To collect artifact and soil chemical distributions, 352 test pits were excavated systematically with a 15-centimeter diameter post hole digger at three-meter intervals around the structure. Forty-three test pits were also dug at six-meter intervals outside of the main yard area. All soil was screened through ¼-inch mesh. The cabin foundation was also located by probing, and subsequently exposed.
Phase III excavations were conducted at 18AN500 in the fall of 1984 by John Milner Associates (JMA). Using a new grid oriented to the right-of-way along the east side of the impact area, JMA excavated the entire 450-square meters of the site within the impact area in one-by-one-meter squares. Fifty-nine additional one-meter-square test units were placed randomly across the impact area to determine the location of any subsurface features and artifact concentrations. Each one-meter-square unit was excavated in four quadrants to allow artifacts to be plotted at both macro-levels and micro-levels to more precisely determine their distributions. Maps of glass, ceramics, brick, nails, and faunal remains were produced to identify artifact concentrations. These maps reveal extremely high concentrations of artifacts in the garden area and in the area immediately west of the garden, with localized artifact concentrations occurring in the slope area. The inhabitants of 18AN500 appear to have discarded their domestic refuse in the garden as fertilizer, while larger ceramic sherds suggest a deliberate dumping area on the slope.
A total of 6,465 artifacts were recovered from all phases of archaeological excavation at 18AN500. Glass, ceramics, brick, and metal artifacts comprise over 82% of the assemblage. Due to the small size of the ceramic and glass fragments, archaeologists were not able to estimate the minimum number of vessels present. The majority of glass fragments appear to represent bottles, but a few fragments of table glass and oil lamp chimney were also recovered. Ceramics included whiteware, ironstone, American stoneware, porcelains, and unidentified transfer-printed refined earthenwares, predominantly from tablewares and storage vessels. The majority of metal artifacts consisted of iron nails, but other iron artifacts included five stove fragments, a hinge, a horseshoe, a spoon handle, and a cooking pot.
Numerous toy fragments, including bisque doll heads, a sherd from a child’s porcelain tea set, and a ceramic marble, suggest children’s recreational activity. The recovery of two slate pencils hints at the inhabitants’ ability to read and write, while a copper alloy harmonica suggests how leisure time may have been spent. Other artifacts include 76 bone and shell fragments, 14 pieces of coal, 11 slate fragments, and five buttons. Even though the preservation of faunal remains was poor, analysts were able to conclude that the inhabitants of 18AN500 depended on oysters and immature pigs for food.
Prehistoric artifacts recovered from the Fischer Site reveal the presence of a Native American transient hunting camp dating from the Late Archaic through the Late Woodland Periods (2000BC-1600AD). Three prehistoric pottery sherds and 682 lithic artifacts, including projectile points, bifaces, unifaces, hammerstones, fire-cracked rocks, and debitage, were recovered during Phase II and III excavations. All artifacts were located in humus or the A-horizon, and were mixed with 19th- and 20th- century materials. A concentration of fire-cracked rocks in association with quartz, rhyolite, and quartzite debitage, six bifaces, and a projectile point possibly represents a hearth that was disturbed by subsequent activity. The presence of fire-cracked rock, debitage, and a limited variety of tool types indicated that site activities included the procurement and processing of faunal resources, the refurbishment of existing lithic tools, and the creation of new tools.
The records collection consists of original documents in good condition. The collection is housed in three letter-sized clamshell archival storage boxes and one oversized enclosure.
There are few field records for this site. Those records that are present in the collection have been scanned and are accessible online as .PDF files, but are not searchable. Records include: a mitigation proposal; site avoidance documents; distribution, topographic, and site maps; miscellaneous site plans and profiles; site reconnaissance logs; notes, lab work, correspondence, and contracts relating to soil sample analysis; historical background research; project correspondence; and artifact catalogs.
Two reports for the Fischer site are in the collection: Phase II Archeological Investigations at 18AN500 (Hurry 1980), and Archaeological Data Recovery at Site 18AN500, A Post-bellum Black Residence In Anne Arundel County, Maryland (Parrington et al 1985). These have been scanned as PDF documents and are available online.
Researchers should note that the Phase II and Phase III testing was set up on different grids.
Photographs taken on-site or in post-processing are available through the online database, and are searchable. Researchers should note that images are not linked directly to specific documents, and photo records do not necessarily exist for all features or units. Original images consist of slides and are housed at the MAC Lab.
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