Dig Days offer opportunity to explore


April 02, 2001|By Doug Lamborne | Doug Lamborne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

SPRING IS COMING - one hopes - and it's time to play in the dirt, time to correct last year's landscaping disasters, get the crops in and cart off the kids to one of two archaeological events in the region.

London Town in Edgewater starts its season of monthly Archaeology Dig Days on Saturday. The hands-on dig runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Youngsters age 8 and older are welcome, and an adult should accompany those younger than age 14.

"No experience necessary," says the literature.

On Thursday and Friday, a very contemporary "dig" will take place in Eastport, using a device called ground-penetrating radar. The public is welcome to watch, from noon to 5 p.m. Thursday and noon to 6 p.m. Friday.

Both events are part of Maryland Archaeology Month.

"It's an opportunity for us to talk with the public about archaeology," said Jane Cox, assistant county archaeologist.

Al Luckenbach, the county's archaeologist, oversees the London Town project.

The town of London, he explained, was founded in 1683 on the South River and became a thriving tobacco port. It sat on a road that ran from Williamsburg through Annapolis to Philadelphia. Part of that road is William Scott Street - "it was a well-traveled road back then, sort of like Interstate 95 in 1690," Luckenbach said.

Rumney's Tavern sat on that street. The tavern no longer stands, but the rubbish dumped in its cellar, now mixed into soil, can yield tidbits of history. "It's the classic `one man's trash is another's treasure,'" Luckenbach said.

Volunteers, including those with no archaeological experience, work the site, digging and sifting. Discoveries occur: nails, animal bones, pieces of tobacco pipes, plates, bottles, buttons - the stuff of life back in those days.

"Almost as quickly as it arose, London Town would fail," said Luckenbach. "In 1747, the Maryland Assembly passed legislation limiting tobacco export to specific inspection stations they designated. London was not among them."

The Eastport site is on the Annapolis Yacht Club lot on the south side of the Spa Creek Bridge. Cox and her crew will be looking for the remains of Benjamin Ogle, the Colonial-era governor and owner of what is called Eastport today.

"Although he was a wealthy man who owned the Belair Mansion [in Bowie], Ben Ogle requested to be buried unceremoniously on his farm near Annapolis," said Ellen Moyer, Eastport alderman. "We know his farm, where he raised his race horses, was all of Eastport."

The ground-penetrating radar will not show coffin nails or bones, Cox explained. "It sends a radar pulse into the ground, and will show us a soil profile." If the image reveals an inconsistency in ground features, then it is possible that humans may have done something down there.

If evidence of human intrusion is found, and that it was not recent work for pipes and such, then a dig may be considered.

These projects, by the way, are weather-sensitive.

"You can't dig or sift in the rain," said Luckenbach. "Archaeology is a weather-dependent sport."

Another harbinger

Despite last week's frosts, the signs of spring continue. As further evidence, Annapolis Striders running club will stage its 21st annual Cherry Pit 10-Mile Race on Sunday at South River High School in Edgewater.

Registration begins at 6:30 a.m., with the race to start at 8 a.m. The timing means the roads - Route 2, Muddy Creek Road and Route 214 - will be clear of Saturday-night revelers.

Evan Thomas of the Striders said the public is welcome, with a $4 entry fee.

"We expect 150 to 200 runners," Thomas said. "The Cherry Blossom run is taking place in D.C. at the same time, so this might be the right race for someone looking for something that isn't so crowded."

Spring's bounty

Want one more harbinger? The Anne Arundel County Farmers' Market will open its 20th season at 7 a.m. April 14 on Riva Road.

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