A hunt for history near a mall paying off Excavation of Indian camp near mall ends.

May 08, 1991|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,Evening Sun Staff

Archaeologists working in woods near the Marley Station shopping mall in Anne Arundel County say they have completed the excavation of a 10,000-year-old Indian tool-making camp that was badly looted last fall by relic hunters.

The latest round of excavations at the so-called "Garman site" has revealed new clues to the daily lives of people who crafted their tools and hunted their food in the region not long after the last Ice Age.

The dig was begun last November in a race to stop extensive and haphazard digging by amateurs, and to explore the camp site before developers moved in. That work cost $25,000, paid for by the developer.

It resumed April 5 after an infusion of $9,000 in additional funds from the Maryland Historical trust and the Anne Arundel County Trust for Preservation.

The archaeologists say their latest work has expanded their understanding of the site, which includes numerous stone hearths and stone debris from tool manufacturing.

There also is tantalizing evidence that the first Indians to use the site -- not long after the last Ice Age in the early Archaic period -- used hide shelters weighted down by rocks, much as sub-arctic Indians in Canada did in more recent times.

"We can still say these are the oldest hearths discovered in this state, and one of the best-preserved early Archaic living surfaces in the mid-Atlantic region," said Anne Arundel County archaeologist Al Luckenbach.

"What this second spurt of activity has accomplished is that we are getting a tremendous increase in information on the lithic processing [or stone tool-making] that was going on here," Luckenbach said.

The ancient tool-makers quarried pinkish Magothy quartzite, possibly from a known Indian quarry about a mile from the camp site.

Back in camp, they worked the stone until they had smaller "blanks" that could be easily carried away and finished later into usable tools as needed. Quarry stones, blanks and flakes chipped from them have been found concentrated in work areas, and scattered broadly across the site. But finished tools of Magothy quartzite are absent.

R. Christopher Goodwin, the Frederick contract archaeologist leading the dig, said, "The finished points we are finding . . . are not made from Magothy quartzite," and they show evidence of having been reshaped, used and discarded.

That, Goodwin said, suggests the Indians were coming to the camp to replenish their tool supplies.

"They were coming with finished tools manufactured elsewhere, getting raw materials here and leaving with . . . blanks" to be finished elsewhere, he said.

The evolving styles of projectile points found at the tool camp, both by the archaeologists and by amateur collectors who have found artifacts at the site for years, reveal a long history of occupation.

The first occupants were people of the very early years of the Archaic period, perhaps 10,000 years ago, when the region was forested in spruce and birch, much like parts of Canada today.

Successive groups used the site over the millennia up until the Early Woodland period, about 2,000 years ago.

The earliest tool-makers were clearly a band of nomadic hunters and gatherers, following their game as it came into season. They apparently stayed at the tool camp long enough to do some hunting.

April K. Sievert, a specialist in the analysis of stone tools, showed a palm-sized piece of quartzite found at the site.

"A stone like this would have been used for hide scraping," she said, evidence that "they may have done a little bit of butchering and hide-working" in addition to tool-making.

Back in the laboratory, Sievert will examine the stone tools under a microscope for use-related traces of wear. From tiny scrapes and chips on their working edges, she will be able to tell whether they were used on hide, bone or wood. Such traces can sometimes even reveal whether the user was left-handed or right-handed, she said.

Luckenbach said projectile points found at the site also will be tested for microscopic traces of blood, which can now be analyzed to determine the species of animal hunted with the weapons.

The camp site is now a pocket of trash-strewn woods, crisscrossed by footpaths and hemmed in by highways and development. Looters last fall destroyed numerous hearth sites and erased irreplaceable evidence of ancient human habitation.

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