From Pinkney House To Wye House

Pipe bowl from Pinkney House. Source: Benjamin Skolnik

Pipe bowl from Pinkney House. Source: Benjamin Skolnik

My first experience with archaeological excavation occurred exactly one month ago at the Pinkney House in Historic Annapolis. I thought I had had a relatively firm grasp on what archaeology would be like, but I learned quickly that excavating was more than just digging in the dirt for artifacts. I was assigned to Unit 18, which was located in the vicinity of what was once apart of a row of tenement houses known to be occupied by African American renters during the late 19th Century. I had anticipated scrupulous digging and sifting, but I was initially surprised at how data concerning the multiple stages of the unit were gathered and documented. Precise measurements and details of every level and feature are required for further interpretation once the unit is finished and the earth is replaced.

Unit 18 proved to be rich with many artifacts. Many pieces of various ceramics were uncovered along with a wide selection of bones and glass. We were able to conclude a feasible time frame in the strata of the unit dating to the mid to late 19th century by identifying the specific qualities of glass and ceramic. One of the more interesting artifacts that were uncovered at the Pinkney House was an isolated tobacco pipe bowl. The pipe bowl most likely dates to the mid to late 19th century according to the law of stratigraphy.

For the past two weeks the field school has been excavating slave quarters at Wye House Plantation. Although my current unit does not include nearly as many artifacts as unit 18, our findings in unit 69 are conclusive nonetheless. We discovered a concentrated scatter of bricks in the Northwest corner of our unit, which is thought to be a portion of a deconstructed slave house. With the completion of unit 69 we now have a better understanding of where to continue excavating with the remaining week left to finish.

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