ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Most of the time when the city of Annapolis makes construction crews monitor any digging for archeological artifacts nothing of interest turns up. That’s not the case with a pit dug on Green Street to replace a sewer line.
The relatively small 5-by-1.5 foot trench was chock full of surprises, evidence of earlier walls, a foundation, and several pieces pipe stems and Colonial and 19th-century ceramics.
Not totally unexpected for property that was once owned by three generations of Charles Calverts, but there was more.
Among the period material you might expect to find digging in Annapolis were pre-historic Native American pottery sherds likely of the Woodland period stretching from 1,000 B.C. to 1,000 A.D.
“We probably found a half dozen prehistoric sherds,” Matt Cochran, an archaeologist with Applied Archaeology and History Associates. The company is on contract with the city to perform such investigations when property owners have work done that includes digging.
He pointed to faint cord decorative markings on one piece about the size of a fat quarter.
He said it was definitely out of the 18th-century context the rest of the material unearthed suggested.
“It is interesting to find a couple of thousand-year-old pottery (pieces) in the same context as Wedgewood pottery,” he said holding the two pieces side by side. “But it is certainly indicative of Native American presence in Annapolis.”
There were other pieces of interest unearthed as well. Parts of a brick wall, a drain, and a coped piece of stone that was likely the decorative top to a wall.
One unusual artifact was a ceramic decorative piece believed to have adorned a facade, a cartouche. It was molded but also has obvious evidence of hand shaping or smoothing as well.
John Tower, assistant chief of preservation for the city, concluded the decorative piece indicated wealth.
“This was all of a scale the average person could not afford,” Tower said.
The land where the house sits, at the low end of Green Street near City Dock, was on property belonging to the Calverts, whose main home overlooking Spa Creek is part of St. Mary’s Catholic Church.
Another Calvert family home stood just up the street, roughly where Annapolis Elementary School sits today.
One theory archaeologists are knocking about is the trove or artifacts might have been a midden or pit where detritus was tossed.
“You have a home that was torn down or burned and you have a giant depression where the building was and they always become catch basins, middens if you will, with people just throwing things in it,” Cochran said.
They also think it might be related to a house that directly across the street or the blacksmith shop belonging to Simon Retallick, who had a house built on Green Street and moved his blacksmith shop from Church Circle to the corner of Green and Main streets in the late 1780s.
Retallick did ironwork for the State House, Chase-Lloyd House and the old Treasury Building, as well as citizens of the city, Tower said.
Charred brick, likely from the blacksmith shop was uncovered.
Chief of Historic Preservation Roberta Laynor said finding such an assortment of artifacts is unusual.
Her office can require archaeology monitoring as part of a permit when land is being disturbed for any sort of construction.
“In almost every case we come across nothing but disturbed soils, but in this case, it was chock full of artifacts — an earlier brick drain, stone foundation and that coped stone, and pearlware, glassware, pipe stems.”
“This justifies why I ask for such monitoring. Some people roll their eyes, but it’s not a waste at all. We can find these pieces of Annapolis history,” she said.
It is the luck of location. Cochran said the roadway was dug up and everything of interest “is obliterated. There are gas lines, water lines, every sort of utility you can think of.
“But move one foot over into the sidewalk and everything is intact.”
Cochran said the next thing is to fully analyze the material uncovered and figure out the context of this and how it fits into the history of Annapolis.”
Another question is what to do with the artifacts.
“This should be on display somewhere,” Tower said.
Information from: The Capital, http://www.capitalgazette.com/
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