The Posey site is a circa 1650 to 1680 settlement that
was probably the year-round home of a small group of American Indians.
The site is located near Mattawoman Creek aboard what is now the Naval
Support Facility Indian Head. The individuals who lived there were most
likely members of the Mattawoman petty chiefdom, a component group of
the Piscataway Indians. Although not a large village, the Posey site affords
archaeologists the opportunity to study how interaction with European
colonists changed the material culture of Maryland’s Indians in
the 17th century.
Artifacts from the Posey site show
the presence of European items, traditional Indian goods, and artifacts
that were made by Indians using materials from Europe. Top row:
Copper points, stone points, and ceramic rim sherds made by Posey’s
inhabitants. Middle row: Copper scraps, imported white clay pipes
, locally made pipe, shell beads, nails, and copper cones. Bottom
row: German stoneware ceramics, iron knife fragment, European-style
bone comb, and two bone needles or awls. Courtesy of the Naval Support
Activity South Potomac.
In 1636, Lord Baltimore awarded the property where Posey
is located to Thomas Cornwallis who re-patented the parcel in 1654, but
there is no evidence that Europeans were living there at the time. In
fact, between in the 1660s and 1670s efforts were made to protect Indian
land and Maryland’s Provincial Council prohibited European settlement
between the Mattawoman and Piscataway creeks. By the end of the 17th century,
however, the European colonists had encroached on the area and were interested
in convincing the Indians to allow English settlement and tobacco production.
The Posey site seems to have been abandoned by about 1680.
The Posey site was first discovered in the early 1960s
by Calvert Posey, a naval chemist who noticed artifacts exposed on the
ground after the explosion and cleanup of a nitroglycerin manufacturing
plant. Posey and some colleagues collected artifacts from the site, and
Posey later wrote a small article proposing that it had been the location
of the village of Matiwataquamend, which was visited by Captain John Smith
The site was later revisited by William Barse during
a 1985 Phase I of the Naval Support Facility Indian Head, and the Southern
Maryland Regional Center, which conducted Phase II excavations in 1996.
These studies concluded that Posey did not represent a large village,
but instead a small hamlet that had at least one household. Disturbance
at the site by plowing, erosion and Navy activities may mask the presence
of other households, but it certainly was not home to more than a few
families, and therefore is not a likely candidate for the location of
Artifacts recovered at the Posey site indicate that
pottery and shell beads were being made there for personal use, and possibly
also as goods for trade with the Europeans who lived in the surrounding
area. The people who lived at the Posey site had access to a global trade
network when interacting with the colonists. Stoneware ceramics from Germany,
glass beads from Italy, tin-glazed ceramics from the Netherlands, and
utilitarian ceramics from England were regularly shipped to Maryland by
the 1650s, and these types of artifacts were recovered at the Posey site.
Though Posey’s inhabitants certainly did not abandon their traditional
practices of pottery-making, shell bead work, and stone-tool usage, the
introduction of European goods expanded the range of materials they could
incorporate into these practices. For example, metal tools could be used
to drill the tiny holes needed for shell beads, and decorations might
be applied to clay pipes with metal stamps. Perhaps the most striking
example of material culture change at Posey, however, is the appearance
of projectile points made from copper as opposed to stone, as well as
musket balls and gunflints.
Summary by Sara Rivers Cofield
|Barse, William P.
||A Preliminary Archaeological Reconnaissance Survey of
the Naval Ordnance Station, Indian Head,
Volume I: Cornwallis Neck, Bullitt Neck and Thoroughfare Island. Draft
report prepared for the
of the Navy, Chesapeake Division, Naval Facilities Command.
|Brush, Grace S.
||Pollen Study of Two Sediment Cores from Mattawoman Creek,
Maryland. Prepared for the Department of
Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum, St. Leonard.
|Harmon, James M.
||Archaeological Investigations at the Posey Site (18CH281)
and 18CH282, Indian Head Division, Naval
Center, Charles County, Maryland. Draft manuscript on file, Maryland Archaeological
Laboratory, Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum, St. Leonard.
|Landon, David B., and Andrea Shapiro
||Analysis of Faunal Remains from the Posey Site (18CH281).
Prepared for the Department of Research,
Patterson Park and Museum, St. Leonard.
|Posey, Calvert R., Sr.
||Matiwataquamend: An Indian Village on the
Indian Head Peninsula of the Mattawoman Creek. Ms. on file,
Archaeological Conservation Laboratory, Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum,
Archaeological collections from the 1985 and 1996 excavations
at Posey are owned by the Naval Support Activity South Potomac, and curated
at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory.