Romsburg (18AG183)

Phase II archeological testing at the Romsburg site was undertaken due to the impact of the proposed re-alignment of US-48, the National Freeway (modern US I-68), in Allegany County. Construction of the new alignment and approach for a bridge would result in destruction of the site. The site is located on a broad sloping terrace of Town Creek, adjacent to the old Gilpin Tannery manager’s house, which is in the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties. The tannery itself is defunct, and its potential location within the right-of-way was a major concern of the investigation. Ultimately the tannery was found to be located outside the project area and the primary occupation at Romsburg appears to be Archaic.

Soils on the site belong to the Weikert-Gilpin association and are characterized by shallow development, good to excessive drainage, and high stone content (mostly shale). The southern portion of the site consists of acidic Monongahela silt loam. Moderately eroded, well-drained, acidic Allegheny silt loam occupies the northern site area. Previous research (two series of shovel test pits) indicated the presence of both historic architectural debris and prehistoric lithics.

Phase II testing involved both a controlled surface survey and excavation of ten 1 X 1 m test units. Areas plowed for surface collection were based on the previous shovel testing, which had determined approximate site limits. Excavation units were placed to sample areas of high surface artifact concentration. Units were excavated in 10 cm arbitrary levels and all but the plowzone soils were screened. Flotation samples were taken from features and saved for later processing.

Four features were encountered during the excavation. Feature 1, a postmold, occurred in an area of high prehistoric artifact concentration. However, this appears to be from a historic fencepost, due to the presence of a metal fence staple in a horizontal position along one feature edge. Feature 2 was a small 32 X 25 cm discoloration containing charcoal flecks. It is irregular in shape and contained no artifacts. It was interpreted as a burned root or stump. Flotation of a soil sample from the feature yielded only charcoal. Feature 3 appears to be another postmold related to the historic fence (Feature 1). And finally, Feature 4 was a shallow 10 to 15 cm deep basin filled with less compact soil, charcoal flecks, cinders, and a single chert flake. Flotation sampling yielded more charcoal and a chert micro flake. This feature was situated directly above a very dense concentration of prehistoric lithics.

Only one prehistoric ceramic object was recovered from the site during Phase II research, a small and amorphous lump tempered with sandstone. It is too eroded and fragmentary to be assigned to a specific time period within the Woodland era.

A total of 316 flaked stone objects were recovered during Phase II work, most of which (270 pieces) were classified as debitage. Twenty unifaces and 26 bifaces were found. Thirteen of the bifaces can be classified as projectile points, 11 of which are sufficiently complete to merit typological analysis. The oldest point recovered is a small brown jasper Palmer corner-notched point. Three Brewerton side-notched, 1 Brewerton eared notched point, 3 side-notched Normanskill points, a contracting-stemmed Poplar Island point, a Susquehanna Broadspear and a Dry Brook Fishtail point were also found. Aside from a single straight-stemmed point, the rest of the projectiles are too fragmentary to permit any kind of identification. Other lithics recovered include 22 hammerstones, 1 anvil 1 abrader (or possibly a historic whetstone), 3 manos, and 1 pitted stone.

The historic artifact assemblage consisted largely of temporally non-diagnostic coal, cinders, a small quantity of historic ceramics, and architectural debris (brick and mortar fragments, nails, and window glass). This scattering of historic artifacts was attributed to field dumping.

Phase II investigations revealed the presence of Early Archaic, Middle Archaic and Transitional occupations. Only one Woodland artifact was recovered (a sherd). Analysis of the lithic artifact assemblage reveals a very low debitage to tool ratio (4:1). Tool manufacture was a minor activity on this site. A high frequency of use-modified tools as well as a high proportion of fire-cracked rock suggests that plant food and/or perhaps fibrous vegetation processing was the focus of the major occupation of this site. Other activities taking place, suggested by both flaked stone tool morphologies, working edge characteristics, and breakage patterns, include hunting, butchering, and hide-processing.

(Edited from the Maryland Historical Trust Synthesis Project)


  • Ebright, Carol A.
  • 1990. Archeological Testing at the Romsburg Site, Allegany County, Maryland. SHA Archeological Report No. 2.

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