Ruf Site (18AN65)

The Ruf Site, also known as the Beck Northeast Site (18AN65), is a series of stratified Late Archaic through Early Woodland short-term camps, including a Middle Woodland shell midden near Davidsonville in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. The site is situated on a sand and gravel terrace on the north side of an intermittent tributary to the Patuxent River. Most of the surrounding landscape is gently rolling with numerous small stream valleys dissecting it. At the time of the site’s discovery, and through much of its documented history, it has been in cultivation.

The site was first discovered by local amateur archeologist Thomas Mayr in the late 1930s. Mayr surface collected in plowed portions of the site, and also noted midden deposits in the soil layers exposed during tree clearance. In 1939 and 1940 Mayr excavated a portion of one of the two midden areas. He estimated that the site was originally roughly 244 X 61 m (800 X 200 ft) in extent, but had been reduced to these two small midden areas through plowing and erosion. The midden remnant excavated by Mayr was roughly 28 square meters in area.

Mayr encountered an A1 plow-disturbed deposit atop a B zone during which a major occupation occurred. Approximately, 29.8 m2 (320 ft2) of the midden was troweled for features, and 5.1 m3 (180 ft3) of midden were screened. Subsequent excavation of the site in 1957 would find that the other reported midden remnant had been destroyed by deep plowing and tree removals. Mayr did not inventory his assemblage from the site, but did report recovering large lanceolate blades of rhyolite, argillite, and jasper (Selby Bay points), trianguloid and narrow bladed wide-stemmed projectile points, crude shell-tempered wares with various simple surface treatments, a ¾ grooved axe, and an elliptical gorget. An inventory of Mayr’s collection from the Ruf site made in 1964 cataloged 56 shell-tempered cord-marked vessels, 150 shell-tempered net-impressed sherds, 2 shell-tempered fabric-impressed sherds, 13 other shell-tempered sherds, 26 deer bones, 1 turtle bone, 1 snake bone, 120 mammal bones, and 2 reptile bones. In addition, an oak charcoal sample from the midden was retained and submitted for radiocarbon dating to the University of Michigan. The sample produced a date of 2400 ± 150 radiocarbon years before present. When calibrated, this corresponds to a calendrical date range (2 sigma) of 833-154 BC.

In the fall of 1981, the Maryland Historical Trust conducted salvage excavations at 18AN65. Gravel removal operations on the property had destroyed much of the site in the intervening years, including most of the site as it was defined by Mayr and were now threatening to damage a portion of the site to the west of a local road and on an adjoining property. The site was investigated by excavating seven 1 X 2 m test units. Excavation proceeded in 10 cm arbitrary levels within natural strata. Features were identified and marked by the presence of fire-cracked rock, charcoal, soil stains, and carbonized plant remains. Eight flotation samples were recovered during excavations, six of which came from feature levels.

The test units revealed modern, wind-blown sand layers (Layers A and B) covering and protecting a buried prehistoric land surface (Layer C). The buried midden extended 30 meters in an east to west direction and at least 30 meters in a north to south direction. The midden consisted of dark brown sandy soil filled with charcoal, infrequent oyster shells, fire-cracked rock, carbonized plant and nut remains, and artifacts dating primarily to the Selby Bay phase of the Middle Woodland period. Artifacts recovered from the midden included rhyolite knives, Mockley net-impressed and cord-marked sherds, and debitage.

The Selby Bay phase midden lay over top of 70 cm of Early Woodland through Late Archaic artifacts and features. Projectile points recovered from the buried deposits included a Savannah River stemmed, a Lackawaxen Stemmed, a Piscataway, and a Vernon point. Two fire-cracked rock cluster features were found along with one small pit feature which yielded carbonized nuts and seeds suggestive of fall-winter occupation of the site. The types of artifacts present varied with depth, with lithic preference changing from rhyolite to quartzite to quartz with increased depth. Diagnostic projectile points recovered from the site during the 1981 excavations include 1 Piscataway point, 1 Vernon point, 1 Lackawaxen point, 1 Savannah River, 1 Calvert, and 3 Selby Bay points and 4 Accokeek sherds, 142 Mockley sherds were also recovered. Additional materials were recovered through flotation. Floral materials recovered in the flotation samples include goosefoot, heather, coffee bean, spurge, borage, Aizoaceae, amaranth, mint, Portulacaceae, pokeweed, bedstraw, buttercup/crowfoot, sedge, broomrape, bladderwort, mustards, and unidentified seeds/nuts.

Controlled surface collection of the entire site was conducted in 1982. Artifacts were found scattered across the entire cultivated portion of the terrace, with the highest density of artifacts found along the flat upper portion of the terrace. The high density of artifacts on the portion of the terrace suggests that soils have been deflated and in situ deposits are not as deep. However, distribution maps of the different artifact classes reveal intrasite patterning of the artifact classes. This patterning is of value in interpreting research questions regarding site function and the activities carried out there. Artifacts recovered during the surface collection in 1982 included 2,462 flakes, over 3,000 pieces of fire-cracked rock, and 199 Mockley sherds.

The Ruf site (18AN65) contains stratified archaeological deposits of importance to understanding the evolution of American Indian society in the Middle Atlantic. Investigations of the site from the 1930s onward have revealed artifacts dating from the early Late Archaic period through the Middle Woodland period Selby Bay phase. The site has an intact buried Selby Bay phase midden layer. This midden lies on top of Early Woodland through Late Archaic artifacts and features. The stratified deposits at the site extend to a depth of at least 1.7 meters below the surface. Controlled surface collection reveals that a high density of artifacts extends over the site. Due to extensive disturbance by topsoil removal on a large portion of the site (the western portion of the site excavated in the 1930s-1940s), only the northeast portion of the site (excavated in the 1980s) remains. The Selby Bay phase midden remnant in this portion of the site is of regional research value as the deposits in the western portion of the site served as the type collection for the definition of the Selby Bay phase.

(Edited from the Maryland Historical Trust Synthesis Project)

References

  • Panet, Lisa
  • 1983. Subsistence and Functional Analysis of the Beck Northeast Site, Anne Arundel County, Maryland.
  • Mayr, Thomas
  • 1957. The Ruf Site: An Influence from Pennsylvania. Manuscript of a paper given at the annual meeting of the ESAF, Baltimore, Nov. 9-10, 1957.

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