Introduction

18ST704 is a multi-component site with both Native American and historic occupations. Archaeological research has uncovered evidence of a 17th- to 20th-century plantation with structures and artifact concentrations, and the site contains the remains of a Late Woodland period short-term camp in the form of a lithic scatter.

Archaeological Investigations

Phase I, II, and III investigations at 18ST704 were conducted by R. Christopher Goodwin & Associates, Inc. for TAMS Consultants, Inc., on behalf of the Naval Air Station Patuxent River, St. Mary’s County.

Phase I and II testing and evaluation included the excavation of 213 shovel test pits placed at 25 and 50 foot intervals. Seven areas were investigated through test units, and eight mechanical trenches were excavated. Investigations revealed the presence of a rural domestic occupation dating to the late 17th century through the 1940s. Archival research established that the site lies within the Eltonhead Manor/Charles Gift property, owned for much of its existence by the Sewall family. Archaeological investigations yielded 15,490 artifacts and the intact remains of 27 historic features.

Phase III excavations were performed to recover data from intact features that were slated to be impacted by construction at the installation’s Officer’s Club. The excavations revealed that the intact subsurface features were so extensive as to warrant modification of the construction project in favor of conservation of much of the archaeological site.

The major cluster of features at the Charles’ Gift site comprise a row of postholes that probably represent Nicholas Sewall’s c. 1676 dwelling, a brick foundation from Sewall’s replacement dwelling constructed c. 1694 and occupied into the 19th century, and a large borrow pit excavated for the extraction of clay for the brick foundation of the c. 1694 house. The borrow pit, Feature 12, was filled with construction debris from the c. 1694 structure and demolition debris from the c. 1676 structure. It therefore represents a pre-1700 component of the first Sewall occupation of the site.

Archeobotanical Studies

Combined Phase II and III archeobotanical studies included analysis of seven flotation samples and three hand-excavated samples. Soil samples were processed at the Frederick, Maryland office of R. Christopher Goodwin and Associates. All floral materials were analyzed by Justine McKnight.

Hand-collected concentrations of carbonized plant material included wood charcoal (predominantly oak with some hickory), and a large fragment of a pecan nutshell. While thick-walled hickory nuts (such as mockernut or pignut) are native to the project area, pecan is native to the south-central United States, from Eastern Iowa east to Indiana, south to Louisiana, and west to southern Texas. The tree was cultivated eastward in colonial orchards for its sweet nutmeats.

Flotation samples (original sediment volumes are unknown) bore scant plant remains. Wood charcoal was present in a single flotation sample (red and white oaks, hickory. and elm were identified). Seeds were few, and confined to weedy taxa (pigweed, knotweed, and poke). A single carbonized cultivated bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) was recovered, and one non-carbonized grape seed was noted.

Plant remains recovered from Feature 12 were extremely interesting despite their low frequency and concentration. The recovery of pecan nutshell from a secure late 17th-century context in tidewater Maryland provides rare documentation of the species in the region at this time. The carbonized bean also provides evidence for the use of Native American cultigens in the subsistence economy of southern Maryland plantations. The predominance of opportunistic weedy species (pigweed, poke, and knotweed) suggests that the area around Feature 12 was maintained as an open space, as around a structure or garden. Oak woods dominate the charcoal assemblage, indicating that oak species may have been a preferred building material or fuel source.

References

Hornum, Michael B., Andrew D. Madsen, Christian Davenport, John Clarke, Kathleen M. Child and Martha Williams
1999 Phase I/II Archeological Investigations for the Proposed Officer’s Club Parking Lot Expansion and Golf Field House Modifications, Naval Air Station, Patuxent River, St. Mary’s County, Maryland. Report Prepared for Tams Consultants, Inc., Arlington, Virginia.
 
Hornum, Michael B., Andrew D. Madsen, Christian Davenport, John Clarke, Kathleen M. Child and Martha Williams
2001 Phase III Archaeological Data Recovery at Site 18ST704, Naval Air Station Patuxent River, St. Mary’s County, Maryland. Report Prepared for Tams Consultants, Inc., Arlington, Virginia.
 
McKnight, Justine
2000 Results of Analysis: Flotation-recovered and Hand-recovered Botanical Remains from Site 18ST704, Patuxent Naval Air Station, St. Mary’s County, Maryland. Submitted to R. Christopher Goodwin and Associates, Inc., Frederick, Maryland.
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