Fischer Site (18AN500)

The Fischer Site (18AN500) is a late 19th - through early 20th- century African- American tenant family residence in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. The site contained the remains of a log structure on a sandstone foundation, dating between the 1880s and the early 1920s, with an associated garden, as well as a prehistoric transient hunting camp used from the Late Archaic through the Late Woodland periods. The last tenant, Daniel Simons, a laborer on the Fischer farm, his wife, his son, his son’s wife, and their four children occupied the site from 1913 to the early 1920s. This family appears typical of many landless African-Americans in the Chesapeake region at the beginning of the 20th century.

Archaeologists investigating the Fischer site combined intensive documentary research, oral history, and intrasite spatial analysis to record the history, culture, and lifeways of its former residents. The Fischer Site has the potential to provide information about the lifeways of rural African-Americans in early 20th-century Anne Arundel County. After emancipation, most African-Americans in this county continued to work as laborers or tenant farmers, and occupied the same quarters as they did before. Their low economic status is reflected in the ordinary utilitarian character of the majority of artifacts recovered. Excellent archaeological context makes this site important for comparison to other contemporary sites in Maryland and Virginia.

The Fischer Site was first identified by the Maryland Geological Survey prior to the construction of Interstate 97 between Baltimore and Annapolis. A Phase I survey conducted in 1980 identified the remains of a small structure on the Joseph Fischer farm. Its stone foundation measured 12 by 16 feet, with a brick chimney. Project archaeologist Terrance Epperson suggested that this structure may have housed former property owner Benjamin Lusby’s slaves or post-bellum tenant farmers or laborers. The alignment of the proposed highway was changed to avoid the structural remains, but it would still impact sections of the archaeological site.

The Maryland Geological Survey then undertook Phase II investigations at 18AN500 with 352 test pits excavated systematically around the structure. Forty-three test pits were also dug at six-meter intervals outside of the main yard area.

Phase III excavations conducted at 18AN500 in the fall of 1984 excavated the entire 450-square meters of the site within the impact area in one-by-one-meter squares. Fifty-nine additional one-meter-square test units were placed randomly across the impact area to determine the location of any subsurface features and artifact concentrations. Maps of glass, ceramics, brick, nails, and faunal remains were produced to identify artifact concentrations. These maps reveal extremely high concentrations of artifacts in the garden area and in the area immediately west of the garden, with localized artifact concentrations occurring in the slope area. The inhabitants of 18AN500 appear to have discarded their domestic refuse in the garden as fertilizer, while larger ceramic sherds suggest a deliberate dumping area on the slope.

A total of 6,465 artifacts were recovered from all phases of archaeological excavation at 18AN500. Glass, ceramics, brick, and metal artifacts comprise over 82% of the assemblage. Due to the small size of the ceramic and glass fragments, archaeologists were not able to estimate the minimum number of vessels present. The majority of glass fragments appear to represent bottles, but a few fragments of table glass and oil lamp chimney were also recovered. Ceramics included whiteware, ironstone, American stoneware, porcelains, and unidentified transfer-printed refined earthenwares, predominantly from tablewares and storage vessels. The majority of metal artifacts consisted of iron nails, but other iron artifacts included five stove fragments, a hinge, a horseshoe, a spoon handle, and a cooking pot.

Prehistoric artifacts recovered from the Fischer Site reveal the presence of a Native American transient hunting camp dating from the Late Archaic through the Late Woodland Periods (2000BC-1600AD). Three prehistoric pottery sherds and 682 lithic artifacts, including projectile points, bifaces, unifaces, hammerstones, fire-cracked rocks, and debitage, were recovered during Phase II and III excavations. A concentration of fire-cracked rocks in association with quartz, rhyolite, and quartzite debitage, six bifaces, and a projectile point possibly represents a hearth that was disturbed by subsequent activity. The presence of fire-cracked rock, debitage, and a limited variety of tool types indicated that site activities included the procurement and processing of faunal resources, the refurbishment of existing lithic tools, and the creation of new tools.

(Edited from Archaeological Collections in Maryland)

References

  • Hurry, Silas D.
  • 1982. Phase II Archeological Investigations at 18AN500. MGS File Report No. 177.
  • Parrington, Michael, David Dashiell, Robert Hoffman, Gail Frace, and Stephanie Pinter
  • 1985. Archeological Data Recovery at Site 18AN500, a Post-bellum Black Residence in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. John Milner Associates, West Chester, PA.

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