Archaeological dig yields clues to Annapolis' past

June 27, 1994|By Dana Hedgpeth | Dana Hedgpeth,Sun Staff Writer

Beneath the asphalt parking lot behind the Anne Arundel County Courthouse, archaeologists have found the stem of a terra cotta pipe they believe is from the 17th century and foundation bricks from a rowhouse that may have belonged to the Dulaneys, a loyalist family during the Revolution.

They've come upon bits of metal, glass and pottery from people who once lived in the neighborhood as they work to piece together pictures of Annapolis from the 17th century to later years before construction of a new, $43 million courthouse begins on the site in August.

The team running the dig, Archaeology in Annapolis, will work in the lot until July 15 as part of an agreement between the Annapolis Historic District Commission and the county to recover historical artifacts from the site.

"We started out to find the elements of every group who had lived here from the 17th century until today and we are still turning up new discoveries," said Mark Leone, an archaeology professor at the University of Maryland College Park who is the project leader.

One day last week, Chris Sperling-Gonzalez meticulously dug around a rusted 20th-century drain pipe of an outdoor toilet with a hand shovel.

"It's like being a private detective who's working in the past," he said as he held up a piece of pottery. "You have to derive all the clues and pay attention to each one.

"By themselves they might mean very little to you at first, but when you look at all the pieces together it can tell you a lot."

Mr. Sperling-Gonzalez is one of seven men and women working on the project.

"We are coming up with boxes full of artifacts here," said Eric Larsen,the site supervisor. "We are looking at household trash items basically that you would find in someone's backyard, but it gives us a lot to explore the neighborhood to learn as much as we can."

Most of the archaeologists dug in the area in 1990 and found rare pottery from the Colonial period and artifacts from late 19th and early 20th century black communities.

Broken dishes, rusted nails, broken bits of plates and glass are among the artifacts the archaeologists have recovered in the past two months. Liz Aiello, assistant site supervisor, said that all artifacts will be analyzed at the Maritime Museum in Annapolis, then displayed at the Banneker-Douglas Museum on Franklin Street.

"We were initially finding bricks and large glass bottles, but now we are finding bones from meals, marbles and pieces of porcelain," said Hannah Jopling, as she held up a piece of a porcelain doll's eyebrow, probably from the 19th century. "You can just imagine children playing outside in the back yards with marbles and their dolls and woman canning with glass jars.

"It makes you just stop and think . . . and it really gives you an image of the people who lived here centuries ago."

The site lay at the town's edge in the 18th century, according to Mr. Leone.

From written, oral and map records, the archaeologists know that the area was a field in the 18th century, then developed into an integrated neighborhood in the 19th century. At the turn of the 20th century, mostly black residents lived on Franklin Street.

Tours of the area are available Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. "Every artifact is a reminder that we didn't just happen today, but we evolved from things that we are finding from everyday people," Ms. Jopling said.

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