SERC vs Wye House: Similarities and Differences

As a relatively new student to the discipline of archaeology, I thought it was interesting to note the differences and similarities between the excavations of the first three weeks of the University of Maryland’s Field School in Historical Archaeology and now the start of the second three weeks, each of which are being conducted at two separate and distinct sites.  Although the purpose of each excavation is similar, i.e. research into African American archaeology in both the antebellum period leading up to the Civil War and in the years following that conflict, each site presents its own unique set of archaeological challenges for the students due to the different setting and location of each site.

As noted in the previous blog, we just completed our first three weeks of excavation at a site located on the grounds of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) located near the city of Annapolis.  This site is a possible tenant house linked to an early settler family, the Sellmans, who owned a large parcel of land which served as an operating plantation for several generations prior to and after the Revolutionary War.  After several transfers of ownership, this land was eventually purchased by the Smithsonian in 2007 to become  part of the SERC.  According to previous historical research the possible tenant house may be dated to the mid-19th to early 20th century time frame, and initial (and very preliminary) field analysis of some of the artifacts recovered thus far indicate this may be the case.  We are now in our first week of work on another site located on Maryland’s Eastern shore, which is the Wye House, an historic plantation that has been in operation from the mid-17th century to the present, and has been in the same family for 11 generations. This particular site is especially noteworthy for its connection to Frederick Douglass who lived for several years as a slave on the plantation in his youth.

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