THIS NEEDS TO BE REWRITTEN. TEXT HERE IS FROM CHESAPEAKE ARCHAEOLOGY SITE.
In 2002, colleagues from a number of institutions in Maryland and Virginia
began collaborating on “A Comparative Archaeological Study of Colonial Chesapeake
Culture.” This project explores the material conditions of culture contact,
plantation development and organization, the rise of slavery, and consumer
behavior. Archaeologists from
Arundel County’s Lost Towns Project,
Colonial Williamsburg Foundation,
Vernon, and the Maryland
Archaeological Conservation Laboratory are participating in the
project. The project is also supported by generous grants from
the National Endowment for
the Humanities and
Department of Historic Resources.
This effort at comparative analysis grew out of many years of informal
group discussions concerning the nature of the colonial experience
in the Chesapeake. A growing archaeological database was strongly
suggesting considerable intra-regional variability among assemblages,
calling into question efforts to lump the Maryland and Virginia
Tidewater into a single culture region. Although both colonies produced
tobacco for English and European markets, the material assemblages
recovered from sites occupied at the same time are different enough
to suggest important chronological and geographical variability.
At the same time, project members are ever mindful of the importance
of situating Chesapeake history and culture in much broader
contexts, recognizing the value of interpretations made at multiple
scales. While this particular project directs its regional focus
inward, members recognize that Chesapeake society operated in a
much larger “Atlantic” world. Project members are strongly committed
to understanding that world and believe that that effort begins by
building rich, detailed contexts at what might be described
This project seeks to contribute to the development of a detailed
Chesapeake “archaeography” by building on the work of hundreds of
scholars who have come before us and the many colleagues who work
with us now in the region. These researchers have helped to generate
the databases we use in our project, and they have produced important
interpretations about life in the colonial Chesapeake. Some of the
most interesting interpretations that have emerged have been based
on comparative analysis (for example, architecture and faunal
assemblages), and we hope to add to that discussion.
To that end, project members assembled an electronic database of
artifacts recovered from 18 archaeological sites spanning the
period c. 1620 through the mid-18th century. These sites come
from throughout Maryland and Virginia, with concentrations in
areas experiencing considerable 20th- and 21st-century land
development pressures. Each database has been standardized in
the format we are using for the project, and copies of each are
downloadable elsewhere on this site. Other
information—site histories, excavations, previous
interpretations, and our own analyses—are presented
Sixteen of the 18 sites used in the project were owned and
occupied by English colonists, including landowners and their
families, servants and slaves. Hundreds of thousands of artifacts
were recovered from these sites, including ceramics, white and
red clay tobacco pipes, shell, bone, architectural artifacts,
and thousands of so-called “small finds.” Two sites represent
Native American households occupied during the second half of
the 17th century; the assemblages from both consist overwhelmingly
of Indian artifacts, including ceramics, tobacco pipes, and,
at one site, shell beads.
One notable point is that all sites but two have large plow zone
artifact assemblages. These assemblages are invaluable for documenting
and interpreting the organization and economic and social use
of domestic space. In addition, plow zone and feature distributions
of artifacts typically considered “small finds” are being used to
refine interpretations about the use of household space. Small
finds typically include objects found in small numbers, such as
scissors, needles, furniture hardware, locks, horse furniture,
and so on.
A multi-year and multi-institution collaboration
aimed at standardizing and synthesizing archaeological data for important
sites in the Potomac River Valley during the period 1500-1720.
How we gathered and organized the data, details about the databases,
information for those who want to download and work with the data.
About the 34 archaeological sites included in the project.
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