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Encampments’ remains to be transported to JPPM lab

By AMANDA SCOTT

Staff writer

American Indian artifacts dated between 2000 B.C. and A.D. 50 were discovered at the site of the new Dunkirk Park & Ride during a recent excavation.

“The sites were found to contain well-preserved and undisturbed remains of two small Native American encampments that were occupied mostly between 2000 B.C. and A.D. 50 (Late Archaic — Early Woodland),” a Maryland Transit Administration brochure about the Dunkirk archeological investigation states.

MTA conducts various studies, including engineering, scientific, environmental, archeological and historical, as part of its project planning process, according to the MTA brochure. During a 2008 planning study for the Dunkirk Park & Ride, located behind the Dunkirk Medical Center on Town Center Boulevard, MTA discovered the two Native American sites.

In 2012, the brochure states, MTA obtained help from McCormick Taylor Engineers and Planners of Baltimore, with the assistance of Elizabeth Anderson Comer/Archaeology, to conduct “intensive” archaeological excavations of the two sites.

The sites were excavated from September to December 2012.

Both sites were on natural terraces at the southern base of a small hill that overlooked a small stream, which would have attracted the Native Americans to that location, the brochure explains.

The Maryland Historical Trust determined the sites were eligible for the National Register of Historic Places “because of the sites’ excellent preservation and their ability to provide significant new information about Native American life in Calvert County before the arrival of European settler,” according to the brochures.

Calvert County Historic Preservation Planner Kirsti Uunila said what’s unique about the finding “is it’s the only one that has the house patterns. We have not found those before. That was brand new.”

On the site, according to the brochure, a partial ring of decayed support posts of a former house structure was uncovered, outlining a 3.5-by-1.85-meter structure with a hearth located at one end.

Principal investigator Barbara Silber with McCormick Taylor said “the house was very interesting because these are very often features that are hard to see. It’s a connect-the-dot situation. … It sort of gives us a glimpse into the domestic life of the Native American groups that used to live there.”

Based on the evidence, Uunila said the archeologists were able to determine the house, and several sections of the it, was rebuilt numerous times and was occupied throughout several seasons.

The two sites were repeatedly visited by American Indians, the brochure explains. “Based on recovered artifact types and the remains of living surfaces, archeologists have concluded that the sites functioned as small seasonal base camps,” it states.

Uunila said the other “unusual” thing was “the artifacts they saw were a number of worn-out tools at that site, so it seems that they were using the local cobbles from the stream to refresh their tools while they were doing other things there.”

Several carefully prepared and cared-for tools, such as projectile points, were recovered, though most of the tools found were made quickly and discarded after a few instances of use, according to the brochure.

In addition to the multitude of worn points from tools, the archeologists also found more than 570 pieces of ceramic at one of the sites. Most of the ceramic, the brochure states, is from the Early Woodland era, which indicates the site’s main occupation occurred between 900 and 300 B.C.

“Our analysis has started to show us … the two sites are very different,” Silber said. “Based on the art, we can see that there are two different things going on. One, we have a lot of worn tools, and the other, a lot of ceramic. So, it could tell us they were two different activity areas. The emphasis of what’s going on is very different.”

The recovered artifacts currently are being analyzed, catalogued, documented and re-housed. Once that is completed, she said, they will be transferred to the Maryland Archeological Conservation Laboratory at Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum in St. Leonard.

ascott@somdnews.com