Rose Haven (18AN279)

The Rose Haven Site (18AN279), or Old Colony Cove Site, is a multi-component shell midden site along Herring Bay near Fairhaven at the southern boundary of Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Though earlier prehistoric deposits and later (albeit minor) historic deposits are present, the primary component at 18AN279 is a Middle Woodland Selby Bay component.

The site first came to the attention of the professional archaeological community in 1973, when a member of the Archeological Society of Maryland (ASM) reported it to the Maryland State Archaeologist. In the summer of 1974, the Anne Arundel County Archeological Society, under the direction of archaeologists from American University and the University of Maryland, excavated eleven contiguous 1.524 m (5 ft) squares in the northwestern section of the site. A plow-disturbed oyster layer from 20.32 to 33.02 cm (8 to 13 in) in thickness was found. The plowzone produced fire-cracked rock in abundance. Approximately 40 percent of the ceramics from the 1974 excavations were shell-tempered Late Woodland sherds. By contrast, a surface collection of the entire site (not just the northwestern section) produced an overwhelming majority of Mockley sherds (87% of the diagnostic specimens). This suggests that while Mockley ware is the majority ceramic type at the site, other wares may occur with greater frequency in specific areas.

In 1977 the ASM, working with the Maryland Geological Survey, Division of Archaeology (now MHT) held their 7th Annual Field Session in Archaeology at the Rose Haven Site. In total, 38 one meter test squares were excavated across the southern half of the site. Through surface collection, test unit excavation, and test trench excavation, both intact features and artifact concentrations were encountered. Cultural features included 9 subsurface shell lenses of various size, 6 concentrations of whole oyster shell, 2 aboriginal living floor or sheet middens, and 3 possible subsurface pits. In addition, two features were determined to likely be rodent burrows. Due to time limitations, only 18 of the 22 features were partially or completely excavated. Seven of the subsurface shell lenses were encountered in the east field, six of which contained exclusively Middle Woodland Selby Bay phase artifacts. All six surface shell concentrations were in the east field. Middle Woodland artifacts were encountered in the subsurface pits as well.

Two samples were collected from Feature 4, one of the subsurface shell lenses, for radiocarbon dating. These samples were associated with 7 Mockley sherds, 18 bone fragments, and (obviously) shell. One sample was oyster shell, while the other was wood charcoal. The oyster shell sample yielded an uncalibrated radiocarbon age of 1775 ± 65 years before present. When calibrated (2 sigma) this corresponds to a calendrical date of AD 87-407. The charcoal sample produced an uncalibrated date of 1250 ± 60 radiocarbon years before present. When calibrated this corresponds to a calendrical date of AD 657-934. Thus, both dates for Feature 4 fall squarely within the Middle Woodland timeframe, and even bracket the dates for the Selby Bay phase in particular (AD 400 to AD 900).

In general, aboriginal artifacts tend to concentrate within a 60 m X 300 m corridor along the terrace crest and within the northern portion of the eastern field, while historic artifacts concentrate in the western portion of the west field and in the northern portion of the east field. There also appears to be some clustering in the lithic raw materials and various artifact types throughout the site. With regard to diagnostics, Late Archaic and Woodland projectile points occur along the terrace crest and in the northern portion of the east field. Moreover, three of five varieties of Selby Bay projectile points recovered cluster in specific areas of the site. Accokeek ware clusters in two areas, one in the southern portion of the west field and the other in the southeastern portion of the east field. By contrast, Popes Creek and Mockley are concentrated are concentrated along the terrace crest in the east field, and Townsend and Potomac Creek wares were scattered throughout the area of prehistoric finds.

Possible functional areas at the Rose Haven site can be delineated from data collected during the controlled surface collection. During the Late Archaic, flintknapping activities including flake and tool production and maintenance occurring along the 300 X 60 m corridor in both fields (delineated by the distribution of quartzite debitage, cores, and pitted stones). Butchering, hide preparation, scraping and shaping of wood and bone implements, and food preparation activities occurred in the eastern portion of the site (distribution of quartzite bifaces, unifaces, and pitted stones).

In the Woodland Tradition during the Selby Bay phase, rhyolite, chert, jasper, and argillite were almost exclusively reserved for the production of projectile points, while apparently locally available quartz was primarily utilized for the production of flaked lithic tools. Flintknapping activities occurred in several areas of the site. The heaviest concentration of rhyolite flakes occurs within a small cluster in the northern portion of the east field, while chert debitage and cores concentrate along the 300 X 60 m corridor in the west field, and quartz cores are concentrated within the central and eastern portions of the site. Butchering, hide preparation, and the scraping and shaping of wood and bone implements occurred within the 300 X 60 m corridor in the west field (distribution of quartz and rhyolite bifaces, and quartz and argillite unifaces); while food preparation occurred primarily along the 300 X 60 m corridor in the east field (distribution of Mockley and pitted stones). Historic artifacts recovered include a rosehead nail, 1 tin-glazed Delftware sherd, 4 Rhenish stoneware sherds, a piece of cow bone, and a reddish-brown tobacco pipe fragment.

The data suggest that the site was primarily occupied during the Middle Woodland Selby Bay phase. However, there are a moderate number of Late Archaic points scattered throughout the site, indicating sporadic earlier occupation, as well as some later point types and ceramics. Spatial analysis of the Selby Bay component shows that three of five Selby Bay projectile point sub-type varieties in the collection tightly cluster in specific areas of the site. This suggests temporal, functional, or sociocultural features. Results of the flotation analysis indicate that the site was occupied primarily during the summer months by small groups camping intermittently along the estuary to exploit oyster, turtle, marine fish, and raccoon. Plants were gathered, but physical evidence on varieties is very sparse. Deer were also hunted.

The Rose Haven site appears to be a significant intact prehistoric site with the potential to answer research questions related to Maryland prehistory. Following the 1977 excavations, plans for the housing development fell through. One house was eventually built on the site, but there are likely still intact deposits at 18AN279. At the least, the construction of the single house had considerably less impact on the site than the multiple residences planned in 1977. The site should still be considered a significant archaeological resource.

(Edited from the Maryland Historical Trust Synthesis Project)


  • Peck, Donald W.
  • 1977. The Rose Haven Site. MGS File Report No. 99.

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