The Compton Site (18CV279) is a mid-17th-century tobacco plantation located near the mouth of the Patuxent River at Solomons in Calvert County, Maryland. The traces of at least five earthfast structures and post and rail fencing dating between 1651 and 1685 were uncovered. William and Magdalen Stevens acquired the Compton Site in 1651, when they are believed to have come to Maryland from Virginia. The Stevens remained at the site until 1665, when they left for the Eastern Shore. The site continued to be occupied until 1685 by as-yet-unidentified tenants.
The Compton Site collection has the potential to yield important information about 17th-century plantation life in the rural Chesapeake. Although the Compton Site resembles a typical tobacco plantation in many ways, the site’s architecture and artifact assemblage suggest the variability that is suspected to characterize early colonial culture. The Compton collection can be used to address questions of adaptation, household organization and change through time, trade, standards of living, and other issues concerning colonial Chesapeake culture.
Thunderbird Archaeological Associates identified the Compton Site in 1987 during a Phase I investigation for the Patuxent Point residential subdivision for CRJ Associates, Inc. Agricultural fields in the project area were plowed in 20-foot wide strips and then surface collected in 20-by-20-foot squares. The excavation of two one-foot square test pits in a surface concentration of oyster shells revealed the presence of a subsurface feature.
Phase III investigations of the Compton Site were conducted by Louis Berger and Associates (LBA) between June and August 1988. The first period of data recovery focused on the excavation of 162 2.5-by-2.5-foot units from the plow zone layer within the site boundaries. All soil was screened through ¼-inch mesh, and 57 samples for soil chemical analysis were collected. Following the plow zone sampling, the remaining plow zone was mechanically removed from a 140-foot-by-150-foot area. During the second phase, subsurface features, such as post holes, post molds, and pits, were identified and mapped. Of these features, 26 were excavated, most of them pit features. The refuse pits were excavated following natural stratigraphy, and a flotation sample was removed from every major layer. No soil was screened during feature excavation. Unfortunately, few post holes or post molds were excavated, making it difficult to sort out precise construction technologies and sequences for the five structures and three fence lines identified at the site.
The site plan of 18CV271 consisted of five post-in-the-ground structures, four surface middens, two cooking pits, post-and-rail fencing, and other subsurface features. The 16-by-16-foot dwelling, consisting of one or two rooms, had paned windows and a wattle and daub chimney which utilized Dutch yellow bricks. The four additional earthfast structures measured 18 by 20 feet, 18 by 25 feet, 10 by 10 feet, and 5 by 6 feet. Three fence lines, including a diamond-shaped post-and-rail enclosure, were probably used to pen livestock and delineate yard space. Two elliptical pits were possibly utilized for cooking, while three additional ones were probably used for the preparation of mortar. In addition, three cooking pits dating from the Middle and Late Woodland Periods (ca. 500-1600 AD) were uncovered.
A total of 27,832 artifacts were recovered from 18CV279. This collection includes a large number of Dutch artifacts, such as brick, ceramics, and tobacco pipes. Furthermore, the occupants at Compton appear to have invested a portion of their wealth in portable material goods, as indicated by the presence of several costly artifacts.
The ceramic collection included primarily English, Dutch, and locally-made earthenwares, along with smaller numbers of Italian, Iberian, and French earthenwares and German stonewares. Identified earthenware types included North Devon gravel-tempered, gravel-free, and sgrafitto, Morgan Jones, Staffordshire-type slipware, tin-glazed, Dutch earthenware, North Italian slipware, Iberian storage jars, Saintonge ware, and Red Sandy ware, while recognized stonewares included Rhenish brown and Rhenish blue and gray. The large number of identified Dutch forms, with their distinctive handles and rim shapes, is unusual, and they included skillets, pipkins, bowls, and a pitcher. Other vessel forms from the site included dishes, porringers, jugs, plates, an ointment pot, a storage jar, a rectangular baking or drip pan, and a barrel costrel. At least one Indian-made Potomac Creek vessel was recovered, which is believed to be contemporary with the site’s occupation.
A total of 2,699 white and terra cotta tobacco pipe fragments were recovered from Compton. European tobacco pipe fragments had various decorative motifs, including Pikeman/Minerva, thumbnail impressions, fleur-de-lis, rouletting, and incising. Fifteen pipes with "EB" maker’s marks, which were used byEdward Bird from 1635-1665, were recovered, along with one with the mark of Flower Hunt (1651-1672). Decorations on eight terra cotta pipes include rouletted and dentate motifs such as running deer, triangles, and horizontal lines. One agatized tobacco pipe bowl was recovered.
The majority of the glass artifacts from 18CV279 were beverage-related. Fragments from 22 case bottles, one wine bottle, and three drinking vessels were recovered. These drinking containers include a colorless non-leaded stemware fragment for which portions of the stem and bowl survive, an opaque white paneled drinking vessel with red and blue enameled decoration, and a decorative amber prunt. One small red bead and one millefiori bead with alternating blue and white horizontal stripes were recovered.
Architectural artifacts included seven lead window came fragments, two stock locks, a latch lock bar, and a sliding bolt. Clothing and sewing-related artifacts consisted of 52 copper alloy straight pins, five iron hook and eyes, two pairs of iron scissors, one copper alloy hook and eye, one decorative copper alloy mesh band made from links and coils, and a copper alloy thimble. Fifteen lead shot and an iron trigger guard for a wheellock musket were found, along with a copper alloy upholstery tack with a floral shape, a heart-shaped hasp with a keyhole, and a trowel-shaped hasp without a keyhole. Two iron knife blades and two bone knife handles made up the recovered kitchen implements. Personal artifacts included a copper alloy spur with either a gold wash or gold leaf, and a bone comb with two different tooth sizes.
Faunal and floral materials reveal additional information about the diet of the Compton Site occupants. A total of 6,829 animal bones were recovered, representing such species as chicken, goat, sheep/goat, pig, cow, horse, deer, raccoon, opossum, mole, shrew, drum, yellow perch, sheepshead, turtle, and crab. Floral remains included peach, cherry, persimmon, raspberry, pin cherry, corn, and sorghum.
All excavation records in the Compton site collection are original and in overall good condition, with some minor field staining. The collection consists of three letter-sized clamshell archival storage boxes, five oversized enclosures, and two document rolls.
The excavation records are organized by unit number and by feature number. Records are present for 162 plowzone units and 25 features. Excavation records consist of unit forms, feature forms, profile drawings, and plan drawings. Feature records are searchable by document type, lot number, date, and feature number. Unit records are searchable by unit number, south and east coordinates, level designation, document type, and lot number. Researchers should note that there is one entry with a north coordinate (Unit 80), which is probably incorrect given that south and east coordinates were employed at this site. Some original documents, including feature and unit forms, were pre-printed on both sites, but no information was recorded on the back side. In these instances, the second side was usually not scanned.
Two small, bound field journals are included in the collection. One, completed by Alain Outlaw, covers the period June 6, 1988 through August 19, 1988. The second, completed by Henry Holt, covers the period August 9, 1988 through September 6, 1988. The journals are available online as .PDF documents, but are not searchable.
Miscellaneous documents include photograph logs, ceramic vessel records, provenience lists and questions, site summaries, correspondence, soil analysis, plowzone inventories, conservation documents, artifact records, original plates, catalogs, site maps, and documents related to a later project that utilized data from the Compton site-- “A Comparative Archaeological Study of Colonial Chesapeake Culture.”
Two copies of the final report, The Compton Site Circa 1651 – 1684, Calvert County, Maryland, 18CV279 (Louis Berger and Associates, Inc. 1989) are included in the collection, one bound and one unbound. This report is available online as a word-searchable .PDF document.
Researchers should note that not all units or features have an associated lot number.
Photographs taken on-site or in post-processing are available through the online database, and are searchable using the above criteria. 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 contact sheets and are housed at the MAC Lab.
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