Jordan Swamp (18CH694)

Introduction

The Jordan Swamp I site (18CH694) consists of a mostly wooded knoll overlooking an unnamed small stream feeding Jordan Swamp in Charles County, Maryland. Jordan Swamp I is a small Native American site that appears to have been occupied intermittently from the Late Archaic through the 17th century. The site is believed to be associated with the Zekiah Indians, Zekiah Fort (1680-ca. 1692), or both.

The Jordan Swamp I site is part of Zekiah Manor, a 9,000-acre proprietary manor laid out by Charles Calvert, the Third Lord Baltimore, in 1667. The manor is located north of modern-day La Plata and includes part of Waldorf; the Jordan Swamp I site is located at the manor's northern end.

At the time the manor was erected, Zekiah Indians were living in the area, and Calvert later directed his agents to interview the Indians when efforts were made in 1673 to resurvey the manor's boundaries. That same year, Calvert built a house he intended for use during the summer somewhere on Zekiah Manor; that site has not been found although it is possible that it was on His Lordship's Manor south of Jordan Swamp. The Jordan Swamp I site does not appear to be the site of the Calvert summer house.

The portion of Zekiah Manor containing the Jordan Swamp I site was patented for 200 acres in 1714 to Luke Gardiner. Gardiner transferred the property, known as Mistake, to Bowling Speake in 1718.

Archaeological Investigations

The Jordan Swamp I site was discovered in 2001 during a Phase I archaeological survey of the proposed Route 301 Bypass near Waldorf. The site, which was discovered through shovel testing (n=7), yielded 16 Potomac Creek ceramic fragments, stone flakes, fire-cracked rock, and projectile points. One of these points was a quartz Levanna (triangular) point. The Jordan Swamp I site was interpreted as a "hamlet, representing the settlement of a small single or extended family domestic group. Such settings may reflect refuge settlement during the Late Woodland to early Contact period."

In 2010, St. Mary's College of Maryland excavated 60 additional shovel tests at the Jordan Swamp I site in the search for Zekiah Fort. The SMCM grid was aligned with Maryland State Plane. Shovel tests were excavated at intervals of 25 feet with fill screened through ¼-inch mesh. All artifacts were retained. These investigations revealed a relatively small settlement on relatively good soil surrounded by poor soils with no evidence of earlier occupations.

Artifacts

The 2010 investigations at the Jordan I Swamp yielded 172 artifacts. The majority of the artifacts consist of lithics, including shatter (n=25), flakes (n=89), cores (n=1), tools (n=1), projectile points (n=3), and fire-cracked rock (n=6). Of the three projectile points, only two are complete enough to be typed and include a quartzite Halifax point and a rhyolite Kanawha point. Native-made ceramics include four fragments, including two Potomac Creek fragments (one of which is cord-marked), one Mockley net-impressed fragment, one Popes Creek cord-marked fragment, and one unidentified fragment; the unidentified fragment is probably Potomac Creek.

The recovery of a single English flint flake along with the relatively high numbers of Potomac Creek ceramics (in 2001) (many fragments of which are plain) suggests that the Jordan Swamp I site, which appears to have been occupied throughout prehistory, was also occupied in the 17th century. If the site was occupied in the 17th century, it may represent a hamlet associated with the Zekiah Indians that Governor Charles Calvert reported were in the area, or possibly a hamlet associated with the Zekiah Fort (1680-ca. 1692), located approximately three miles south of the site.

While the Colonial Encounters project focuses on the period between 1500 and 1720, the Jordan Swamp I site reveals a long history of occupation, an important fact of indigenous life in this region and one that almost certainly shaped the region's colonial encounters.

References

Barse, William P., Daniel B. Eichinger, and E. Madeleine Scheerer. 2002 Phase I Terrestrial Archaeological Survey, US 301 Southern Corridor, Charles and Prince George's Counties, Maryland. (URS Corp.) Prepared for the Maryland State Highway Administration, Report Number 229.

Flick, Alex J., Skylar A. Bauer, Scott M. Strickland, D. Brad Hatch, and Julia A. King. 2012. "…a place now known until them:" The Search for Zekiah Fort. St. Mary's City, St. Mary's College of Maryland.

Further Information on the Collection

The Jordan Swamp I collection is privately owned and curated by St. Mary's College of Maryland. For more information about the collection and collection access, contact Julia A. King, Professor of Anthropology, at 240-895-4398; email jking@smcm.edu.

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