Luce Creek Site (18AN143)

The Luce Creek Site (18AN143), also known as the Wright # S/LU-1 Site, is a Middle Woodland shell midden just north of Annapolis in Anne Arundel County. The site was described and documented in 1958 by Henry T. Wright, during a detailed examination of the Severn River (and tributary) shorelines. Wright’s investigation of 18AN143 consisted of the excavation of a single 1.22 m (4 ft) test square in the north-central portion of the site. The excavations revealed a possible Selby Bay component characterized by Mockley sherds and a possible Adena point. A charcoal sample was also collected from the midden, which placed the site within the Middle Woodland Period. It produced an uncalibrated radiocarbon date of 1370±120 radiocarbon years before present. When calibrated, this corresponds to a calendrical date range (2 sigma) of AD 423-944.

No additional documented research took place at 18AN143 until 1990/1991. At that time a Phase I intensive archaeological survey was conducted at the site and in the surrounding area. Phase I work in 1991 consisted of 74 shovel test pits (STPs) across the development parcel, generally at 20 m intervals. Eight of the shovel tests fell within the area of the site. Phase II work was carried out in 1992 and entailed both additional shovel testing and the formal excavation of an area equal to ten 1 X 1 m test units. One feature (in addition to the well-documented shell midden) was identified during the Phase II study. This was a second concentration of shell identified in several shovel tests within a small section of the site about 13 meters south of the main shell midden.

Data from the shovel test pits and test units suggest that there was likely more than one occupation of the site and that it was possibly utilized as a base camp where food was seasonally being collected and processed. This is evidenced by slight differences in the oyster shells from two different test units, as well as the presence of jasper in only the test units placed within the shell concentration. The presence of native botanicals found in the test units in a charred state indicates that the area was being occupied from early summer (based on the presence of a blackberry seed) through late fall (based on the presence of hickory nuts and acorns) and was possibly part of the occupants’ seasonal round. The types of botanicals recovered from the test units also indicate that the site inhabitants were utilizing plant and animal resources typically found in estuarine environments and that relatively extensive exploitation of these locally available food stuffs may have taken place. Oyster shell analysis also indicates a pattern of non-intensive harvest over an extended period of time as opposed to short-term intensive harvesting. All of the oyster shells from all of the various proveniences across the site appear to have been collected from the same type of environment (e.g. from hard muddy sand in relatively shallow water). Growth ring analysis on a small sample of shells also indicates that the majority of the oysters were harvested over a period of at least four months between mid-March and late July, but harvesting may have also taken place (to a lesser extent) between December and March.

An examination of the site artifact and raw material distribution maps revealed several concentrations of cultural material suggesting “activity areas”. Specifically, all of the jasper artifacts were found within one small section of the site and may actually represent a separate occupation of the locus. Although no specific concentrations of ceramic varieties were discerned, the variations in the clay from which the assemblage was manufactured would suggest that pottery had been brought to the site at different times or from different locations.

(Edited from the Maryland Historical Trust Synthesis Project)


  • Ballweber, Hettie L., Cheryl Holt, and Edward Otter
  • 1993. Phase II Archaeological Testing of the Luce Creek Site (18AN143), Anne Arundel County, Maryland. ACS Consultants.

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