Artifacts found on White Marsh Blvd. site

Archaeologists find pre-Columbian items

February 22, 1999|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

While progress on the planned $65 million extension of White Marsh Boulevard creeps along, archaeologists have uncovered reminders of Baltimore County's past, from the pre-Columbian era through post-Colonial days.

Early evidence uncovered recently in site preparation on the project shows that Native American tribes hunted bear and beaver southeast of White Marsh from 1500 to 2500 B.C., a fact of immense interest to state archaeological officials.

Other artifacts -- dating from after the time of European settlement -- include furniture, china, figures and other fine goods that might give archaeologists a better understanding of the communities that once existed in the area.

While the finds will not stop construction of the road leading into Middle River, the locations where artifacts were uncovered will remain secret, said Richard Ervin, a state archaeologist.

"We will do our investigation while the project moves ahead," he said. "But we don't want to invite amateur diggers into the area to spoil what could develop into a very rich find."

The archaeological discoveries were made as the state does initial site work for the 3.2-mile extension of Route 43, which would connect U.S. 40 to Eastern Boulevard, long one of the county's top transportation priorities.

Once a route is chosen from five plans, the highway could be completed in five to seven years. Eventually, county officials say, the highway could help generate up to 10,000 jobs and $13.9 million in tax revenues over 30 years.

While many residents and business leaders support the highway, others feel it will disturb the area's history and protected wetlands. About 450 acres on the 1,000-acre tract of the A. V. Williams property on Eastern Boulevard are wetlands.

"I think the state should rethink the road," said Thomas Lehner, president of the Bowley's Quarters Improvement Association. "The prehistoric and historic sites and the wetlands should remain undisturbed. It would remain in a wilderness state."

As part of a $1 million environmental impact study being conducted by the State Highway Administration, two prehistoric sites have been uncovered, as well as finds that show the area wasn't completely a rural farming community.

Ervin said one Colonial-era site turned up "unusual artifacts, figurines, fancy pottery and ornamental work. This did not come from a rural farm setting."

Jane Bickel, a local historian, said that once new settlers received their grants of up to 1,000-acre tracts, "mansions were built on the high ground, and those homes were furnished with goods that came from the old country by ship."

After crossing the Atlantic and sailing up the Chesapeake Bay, those wooden craft tied up at docks as close as Ebenezer Road and Pulaski Highway.

The earlier Native American sites yielded "projectile points," some used for arrows and spears, others as tools.

Bickel said hunters "roamed the entire territory. There was bear, beaver, otter, deer and elk. They caught fish and smoked it before their journey back home."

In addition to the archaeological sites, other areas near the White Marsh Boulevard project have historic significance of their own.

Ebenezer United Methodist Church, Ebenezer and Earl roads, and Chase Elementary School all will remain untouched during the project because of their historical significance and age. The church is 209 years old.

Heather Murphy, manager for the SHA's White Marsh Boulevard project, said other aspects of the environmental impact study, such as noise and wetland protection, will be completed by May. A public hearing will be held in June, she said.

Pub Date: 2/22/99

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