The Hughes Site (18MO1) is a Late Woodland village located on the north bank of the Potomac River in Montgomery County, Maryland. This palisaded village, measuring as much as 120 meters in diameter, contained oval or round structures with associated activity areas. Various types of subsurface features were uncovered, including storage pits, hearths, structural post molds, a palisade, and burials. This single component village was probably occupied for only a few decades between 1400 and 1500 A.D.
The Hughes Site is one of only two Keyser Complex village sites known in the Potomac Piedmont. The history and cultural traditions of the Hughes Site’s residents were more closely connected to other Native American communities west of the Piedmont than to nearby Native Americans groups. This site is critical for understanding community organization and the political and social environments of Late Woodland settlements during a period of stress and upheaval in the Middle Atlantic region.
The Hughes Site was first identified in 1937 by Nicholas and Roy Yinger. Nicholas worked on part of the site from March 1937 until July 1938, including the excavation of 73 burials. In 1940, Richard E. Stearns published Yinger’s investigations, providing a general description of the site, maps of features, and a description of some of the artifacts. Only a portion of Yinger’s investigation can be reconstructed, as most of his excavations were poorly documented and largely uncontrolled. Artifacts and human remains were curated at the Smithsonian, but the lack of a detailed artifact inventory has hampered the use of these items in interpreting the activities occurring at the Hughes Site.
In 1969, the Southwestern Chapter of the Archeological Society of Maryland conducted limited excavations at the Hughes Site. However, documents relating to the excavations could not be located, and information about this investigation is only available in three of the chapter’s 1969 newsletters.
American University’s Potomac River Archeology Survey conducted additional testing at 18MO1 during the summers of 1990, 1991, and 1994, using students enrolled in the university’s archaeological field school. Thirty-four shovel test pits, one one-by-thirty-meter trench, and 89 two-by-two-meter units were excavated in four areas of the site. Areas A and D were located in the western portion, Area B in the central part, and Area C in the eastern section of the palisaded village. The majority of the 460 archaeological features in these four areas, including 390 post molds, were exposed at the bottom of Level 2 of the plow zone. All soil was screened through ¼-inch mesh, and flotation samples were taken from the features.
A total of 178,200 lithic, ceramic, floral, and faunal artifacts were recovered from the American University excavations at the Hughes Site. They suggest that the residents of 18MO1 practiced a subsistence strategy based on plant cultivation, hunting, fishing, and the gathering of wild resources. It appears that they relied almost exclusively on locally available materials and rarely depended on trade with other Native American groups for additional provisions. Artifact concentrations across the site revealed that the western section of the village was used more intensively and for different purposes than the center and eastern portions of the site.
An assemblage of 39,247 pottery sherds was recovered in the excavations, mostly from the plow zone. Almost 75% consisted of shell-tempered Keyser ware. The bulk of the ceramics exhibited a homogenous surface treatment of smoothed-over cordmarking. Surface decorations were limited to the lip surface, and consisted mainly of punctates and/or incised lines or cord-wrapped implement impressions that formed simple rectangular, linear, or triangular motifs. Vessels appear to have been wide-mouthed, round-bottomed jars, often with a rim diameter greater than 25 centimeters. Other ceramic items recovered included a single fired clay ball and 33 decorated and undecorated terra cotta tobacco pipe fragments.
The lithic assemblage from 18MO1 consisted primarily of locally-obtained quartz, with a few examples made of quartzite, rhyolite, chert, siltstone, and silicified sandstone. Lithic production concentrated on the manufacture of projectile points from cores and flakes, resulting in a large number of abandoned, unfinished, or broken points on the site. Over 900 projectile points were recovered, including 603 triangular, two Piscataway, one Susquehanna Broadspear, and one Orient Fishtail. Other bifacially worked tools included 53 drills and drill fragments, 28 bifaces, two spokeshaves, and a graver. Groundstone artifacts included five celt fragments, three axes, a large metate-like object, and a pipe preform.
A number of decorative items were also recovered from the Hughes Site. These included a small cylindrical stone object with a groove at one end, and a rectangular, highly polished gorget fragment manufactured from a stone similar to granite. Other ornamental objects included 22 small disk and elongated shell beads with cylinderical and beveled perforations, 10 marginella shell beads, five bone beads, and eight unidentified bone objects. The presence of marine shells at the Hughes Site does indicate some form of contact with people on the Coastal Plain.
Subsistence data suggests that the residents of the Hughes Site relied on a variety of foods, both wild and domesticated. Analysis of flotation samples revealed that the residents of the Hughes site utilized nuts and cultivated corn for food, while the faunal analysis suggests that a limited variety of animals were consumed. The residents of the Hughes Site concentrated on deer, gray squirrel, turkey, and raccoon, while taking little advantage of migratory species such as birds and fish. Numerous bone tools, including three bone awl fragments, three worked pieces of antler, and one bone needle were also recovered from the site.
The document collection consists of original records with moderate to heavy dirt and other staining from exposure in the field. The collection is comprised of two letter-sized archival clamshell boxes, one oversized enclosure, and two document rolls.
Excavation records include level forms and their associated plan and profile drawings, and feature forms with their associated plan and profile drawings. The level forms are organized sequentially by square. On the pre-printed forms, the NW corner was indicated as the datum, but this was not always the case; the NW, NE, and SW corners were all used at different times. The records have been subdivided to reflect this, and then arranged sequentially. Records are present for 91 squares. Feature forms are organized sequentially according to feature number. Records are present for 38 features.
Two field journals, identified as volume 1 and volume 2, are also found in the collection. These have been scanned as .PDF files and are not searchable. Other miscellaneous records are also available online as .PDF files, including oversized maps, artifact and ecofact analysis, and an artifact catalog.
There are two associated bound reports: The Hughes Site, An Aboriginal Village Site on the Potomac River in Montgomery County, Maryland, (Stearns 1940) and Final Report on the 1990, 1991, and 1994 Excavations at the Hughes Site (Jirikowic 1999). These have been scanned as word searchable .PDF files.
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 photograph records do not necessarily exist for all features or units. Original images consist of prints and contact sheets and are housed at the MAC Lab.
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