Obrecht Site (18AN113)

The Obrecht Site (18AN113) is a multi-component base camp and village site west of Severna Park and Pasadena, in Anne Arundel County. The site is situated on the eastern side of a narrow peninsula near the head of the Severn River.

The site was well known to local collectors for many years prior to the first formal excavations at the site. During his 1950-1960s era survey of the Severn River region, Henry T. Wright excavated two formal test units at Obrecht: one unit in 1959 and one unit in 1969. At least 1 feature was encountered, which appears to have been a refuse pit. The most extensive research project carried out at Obrecht occurred in 1974 by University of Maryland students under the directorship of the Maryland State Archaeologist prior to residential development. A total of twelve 2 X 2 m units were excavated by natural and artificial levels and sifted through hardware cloth. Finally, an 8 X 4 m rectangle was excavated in order to expose a large area of subsoil surface and identify any possible postmold patterns and related features. Seven classes of features were uncovered and recorded at the site. Thirty-four of the 36 features were aboriginal and include one shell midden, 15 shell lenses, 7 refuse/storage pits, 5 concentrations of fire-cracked rock, 4 charcoal stains, 1 hearth, and 1 flint-knapping station. The two non-aboriginal features were the previously excavated test units dug by Wright.

At the southern end of the site, a shell midden (Feature 16) was partially uncovered. Mockley and Townsend wares were found throughout the shell midden with Marcey Creek plain admixed in some areas. North of the shell midden, 15 shell lenses (Features 3, 5, 8, 9a, 9b, 10, 12, 16c, 16d, 18a, 18b, 18d, 20a, 20e, and 20f) were uncovered along the baseline parallel to the river’s edge. The lenses averaged one meter in diameter and 5-10 cm in thickness. Discrete lenses dated to different time periods based on the diagnostic sherds recovered the from different shell lens features. Six of the seven refuse/storage pits encountered occurred in the southern half of the site. Compared to the shell lenses, the pits were smaller in diameter (averaging 60 cm) and deeper (10-20 cm in depth). Pit features 4, 6, 7, 14, and 15 contained primarily Mockley and Townsend Wares while pit features 11 and 13 contained no ceramics. The 5 concentrations of fire-cracked rock cluster in two areas. At the southern end of the site, Features 16a and 16b appeared to be associated with the shell midden, while Features 19, 20, and 20b were associated with smaller shell lenses at the northern end of the site. Two of the concentrations contained ceramics. Feature 16b was associated primarily with Mockley and Townsend Ware sherds while Feature 20 contained 1 Townsend ware sherd along with 1 Potomac Creek sherd. Three of the 4 charcoal stains (Features 18c, 20c, and 20d) and a hearth (Feature 18) were uncovered in the 8 X 4 m rectangle and were associated with several nearby shell lenses and concentrations of fire-cracked rock. The hearth consists of reddened earth and 4 flakes. The remaining charcoal stain was encountered at the extreme southern portion of the site and is associated with two nearby pits (Feature 6 and 7). No artifacts were contained in any of the charcoal stains. West of the 8 X 4 m rectangle, a flintknapping station (Feature 17) was encountered. Associated artifacts consisted of an anvil and hammerstone with two sandstone abraders, debitage (24 flakes) and 1 biface in the vicinity.

The prehistoric assemblage from the 1974 excavations at 18AN113 includes 78 projectile points and point fragments. The point assemblage consists of 1 Kirk corner-notched point, 1 Kirk stemmed point, 1 Morrow Mountain I point, 1 Otter Creek point, 1 Vernon point, 2 Calvert points, 3 Selby Bay points, 2 Jack’s Reef Corner-notched points, 2 Jack’s Reef Pentagonal points, 5 Levanna points, 42 Madison/Potomac points, and 17 unidentified points/point fragments. Additional flaked lithics include 3 drills, 2 burins, 45 miscellaneous bifaces, 21 cores, 114 retouched flakes, and at least 2,125 pieces of debitage. Groundstone objects include two 3/4 grooved axes, 1 celt, and a fragment of worked steatite. Use-modified lithics were 2 hammerstones and an anvil.

The ceramic assemblage consisted of 5,818 objects: 5,815 vessel sherds and 3 aboriginal pipe stem/bowl fragments. Identifiable vessel sherds were 59 Marcey Creek sherds (5 rims), 314 Albemarle-like sherds (4 rims), 1,314 Mockley sherds (13 rims), 1,642 Townsend sherds (32 rims), 12 Bowman’s Brook incised sherds (2 rims), and 497 Potomac Creek sherds (4 rims). Other artifacts in the prehistoric assemblage were a bone awl, 178 un-modified animal bones (156 pieces of deer bone, 16 turtle bones, 2 small mammal bones, a beaver bone, a bear bone, a fish bone, and a raccoon bone), and 1 crab shell fragment.

In addition to the prehistoric artifacts, a small historic/modern assemblage was also recovered. The historic/modern assemblage consisted of 93 architectural artifacts (38 brick/mortar fragments, 54 nails, and 1 spike), a clothing-related object (a safety pin), 11 kitchen-related artifacts (1 unidentified earthenware sherd and 10 porcelain sherds), 2 pipe bowl/stem fragments, 8 arms objects (a gunflint, 3 bullets, and 4 brass casings), 36 miscellaneous metal objects, and 279 unidentified pieces of glass.

Diagnostic aboriginal artifacts recovered at Obrecht range in time from the Early Archaic to the Protohistoric era. The frequency of early projectile points at the site suggests a period of light occupation from the Early Archaic until the Middle Woodland with a sharp increase in the intensity of occupation during the Late Woodland. This pattern is partially mirrored in the ceramic type frequencies at the site. These suggest a decrease in the intensity of occupation approaching the Protohistoric phase and a more intense Middle Woodland occupation.

While some evidence of plow disturbance was noted at the site, significant evidence of intact deposits was noted in other portions of 18AN113. This evidence came in the form of intact features and horizontally discrete areas where single components were noted. Unfortunately, post-depositional disturbance (plowing) has destroyed any possibility of better defining the Protohistoric phase for the Severn region at the Obrecht site. The evidence suggests that the site served as a base camp during the early periods of occupation, becoming a more permanent village by the Middle Woodland. Shortly after completion of 1974 excavations at Obrecht, the housing development was built and most, if not all of the remaining intact site would have been destroyed.

(Edited from the Maryland Historical Trust Synthesis Project)

References

  • Peck, Donald, Terri J. Ford. Karl F. Edler III, and Becky Teeter
  • 1976. The Obrecht Site (18AN113). MGS File Report No. 2
  • Peck, Donald
  • 1975. Comparison of Two Random Samples from the Obrecht Ceramic Assemblage. Unpublished paper.
  • Brown, Carolyn, Libby Bryant, Richard J. Dent, Karl F. Elder, Terri J. Ford, Donald Peck, Debbie Poznerzon, Ray Schwartz, Nancy Siegel, William Straubinger, and Becky Teeter
  • 1974. Student Papers: Obrecht site (18AN113), Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Prepared for Field Methods in Archaeology class, University of Maryland. On file at Maryland Historical Trust.

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