Honeygo Run study awaits action by council Search for Indian artifacts might delay sewer line

December 07, 1998|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

Not far from Interstate 95 in White Marsh, near a sea of townhouses, American Indians hunted and fished about 4,000 years ago along Honeygo Run, according to a Baltimore archaeologist.

Joseph W. Hopkins' survey of the banks of the Honeygo has uncovered dozens of quartz pieces and a pottery shard that he says are evidence American Indians once inhabited the rolling hills and fields.

The finds -- which could delay the start of a $2.7 million sewer project -- are due for more study under a $47,362 contract up for County Council approval tonight.The contract would let Hopkins search for more artifacts along the same three-mile stretch where he uncovered the quartz cutting tools and pottery last spring.

"It really could add to our knowledge of how and where these prehistoric people lived," says an enthusiastic Hopkins.

But the prospect of an archaeological dig in White Marsh doesn't thrill Baltimore County engineers, who worry the work will increase costs and could delay the much-needed Honeygo Run Interceptor sewer project.

"Until this gets worked out, it means I don't get a sewer line," said Glen A. Keller, chief of sewer design for the Baltimore County Department of Public Works.

Keller said Baltimore County has been planning the sewer line for several years to serve the fast-growing White Marsh corridor.

But the county needs an Army Corps of Engineers permit because much of the 15,000-foot-sewer line lies along the Honeygo and is in federally designated wetlands, Keller said.

To secure the permit, the county is required to consult with the Maryland Historical Trust on whether the project will affect any historic resources, he said.

The trust determined last year that the site was worth a preliminary archaeological survey, and the county hired Hopkins' firm, Joseph Hopkins Associates, to perform a basic dig in 1997.

Keller said the archaeological work has not delayed the project -- so far. The county must wait for approval of rights of way or the acquisition of small parcels of land along the path of the sewer line, which will take until June, he said.

Richard Hughes, chief of the Office of Archaeology for the Maryland Historical Trust, said researchers won't know if the site's historic significance will require a more in-depth, long-term archaeological study that would stretch beyond June until Hopkins completes his work.

But he said it is unlikely that whatever is found will delay the sewer project or require moving the sewer line.

"A site like that will almost never stop a project," Hughes said.

Hopkins said he discovered the artifacts in March during the preliminary dig. He said that his team of archaeologists found 85 pieces of quartz and one pottery shard in small test pits at four sites along the northeast side of the Honeygo.

The artifacts were significant enough for the trust to recommend a more detailed study -- the one Baltimore County is slated to approve today.

Hopkins said that the sites likely were inhabited by Iroquoian-speaking tribes that might have migrated into the region from areas around the Susquehanna River to the north.

The one pottery shard found indicates at least some of the Indians did not use metal tools and probably lived about 2000 B.C., he said.

The Indians probably were wiped out with other tribes by smallpox and other diseases that Europeans brought when they arrived in the area in the 1600s, he said.

"What most people don't realize is that there have been people in the region as far back as 10,000 years ago," Hopkins said.

Keller said the $47,362 contract would pay for Hopkins' crew to dig 11 square pits, each 39 inches deep, and 58 shallower "shovel pits" to determine if other artifacts are in the area.

Hopkins said that the digging will take about two weeks and that he will need three to six weeks to analyze the artifacts and write a report.

"Basically, you look at little pieces of chipped stone and try to figure out what they were used for," he said.

Hopkins said that if what he finds is historically significant, parcels along the Honeygo would be included in the National Register of Historic Places.

"The issue is whether what we have here is liable to contribute important information to our knowledge of prehistoric history," Hopkins said.

Pub Date: 12/07/98

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