"Not for a nickel would I do this work," said R.E. (Mack) McDaniel, "but I'll gladly volunteer."
McDaniel, 52, stood unshaded under a searing summer sun, his trowel at the ready and a broad patch of brown earth before him. He is one of a crowd of archeologists and archeology lovers who have spent what days they could during the past six weeks secretly exploring the mysteries of a 400-year-old Indianhenever he can take a day off work at the AT&T Long Lines division in Washington, McDaniel drives himself and s in his battered Volvo to the banks of the Patuxent River near its mouth at the Chesapeake Bay.
They are among about 200 volunteers who have given a day or more to thurried exploration of the rare, walled Indian village, one of only two ever found in Maryland.
The voluntee in McDaniel's words, to a "clarion call" for help issued by the Maryland Historic Trust, which is supervising in archeology these days--an actual dig.
"Often," said the slender, gray-bearded McDaniel, "the first time site is seen is when the construction backhoe runs over it." And even when a site is in virgin territory whonstruction plans, there is antipathy among archeologists to digging it up because by digging, one destroys itand far between.
Circumstances for the archeologist's dream came together here on the Patuxent because of auck and good will.
A Prince Frederick, Md., lawyer, Laurence Cumberland, decided to build a home on a high by his family. Being history-minded and aware that the area was archeologically rich, Cumberland called the Mast and asked for a site check to be sure he wouldn't destroy anything.
On the site he had selected, the truigs and unearthed the remnants of a wooden wall evidently erected by the peaceful Patuxent Indians as a defensg parties of Susquehannocks from the north.
Only once before in Maryland, at Piscataway Creek on the PotomaWashington, had such a circular Indian fortress been found. That village was mined by archeologists in the 193cess. "They turned up a wealth of artifacts and signs of repeated occupation over thousands of years," said Mcing for his doctorate in archeology at American University.
The trust, with visions of similar success, gobd's offer to delay construction until Aug. 1 so the site could be dug. The trust put out a quiet call for helprculate news of the find too widely for fear of unauthorized treasure-hunters. In the dig-starved archeologicase was thunderous.
"We got a little nervous when 90 people showed up for the first organizational meeting,"t's Southern Maryland regional manager, Mike Smolek.
"I always wanted to do something like this," said Pat lle, who was mapping locations of the tree trunks that made up the walls of the fort. "But I thought I'd have ru or some place. Here it is right in our own back yard."
For all the enthusiasm it engendered, the site haThus far not a single Indian dwelling has been confirmed within the walls, and artifacts have been hard to comsaid indications are that unlike the Piscataway fortress, this one likely was occupied only briefly. Still, he said, the dig is producing ing information on the diet and other habits of the Patuxents.
"This is what I call a real Indian oyster," saup the shell of an oyster that could have eaten Chicago--a monster eight inches long and four inches across.
was cracked. "An Indian did that to get it open," Smolek with a rock. They didn't have shucking knives, of course."
Also unearthed were acorn shells and seeds, stor hunting that dated back to 6200 B.C., deer antlers and rock fragments used in tool making.
One of the mosdiscoveries was the outline of the fort itself, which was built "palisade" style by implanting tree trunks verside.
The outline of the fort is clearly visible through the darker earth where the trees rotted and by thed to tamp the trees in place.
Even entryways are discernible, where the Indians placed a screen of tree trunks across a narrow opening so that arrows and spears could penetrate.
It's the same technique used today to screen the entrance to restrooms at beaches, proving that, the more things change the more they stay the same.
For two more weeks, as they have for the last six, therive, as many as 40 a day, to be issued shovels and trowels and sent off to dig in the steaming hot earth.
us, and from the sounds of exhaustion emanating from the labor force at day's end, it probably is.