Grant Site (18BA444)

The Grant Site (18BA444) is a seasonally-occupied prehistoric base camp located near Owings Mills in Baltimore County. The site contains significant deposits associated with two contemporaneous Late Woodland (AD 1000 - 1600) components; Potomac Creek and Townsend. There is also a minor Late Archaic component present.

The site was first identified during the course of a Phase I survey in 1995 for a planned sewer interceptor installation. Phase I field testing consisted mainly of the systematic excavation of shovel test pits and surface collection. Phase II testing involved the excavation of 51 shovel tests and five 1 X 1 m test units. Stratigraphy at the site was fairly uniform and consisted of an A Horizon (23-44 cm thick) with two discernable strata, overlying a culturally and organically sterile B Horizon. There was no indication that the site had ever been plowed and one feature, a small scattered hearth was identified in one of the test units.

A total of 362 artifacts were recovered 20 of the 51 STPs excavated at the site, as well as in all 5 of the test units. The assemblage consisted of 353 prehistoric artifacts and 9 miscellaneous historic and/or modern items.

Researchers returned to the site in 1995 to undertake the Phase III study. Data Recovery investigations at the Grant site consisted of the excavation of one-hundred 1 meter excavation units constituting a 20% sample of the total site area. The first units to be excavated were the 40 units comprising the random portion of the sampling strategy followed by the excavation of the 12 units reserved for judgmental excavation of the Townsend Core Area, and finally the 48 judgmental units reserved for the excavation of the Potomac Creek Core Area. This resulted in the excavation of two large blocks of contiguous units being excavated, including 13 contiguous units in the Townsend Area, and 55 contiguous units in the Potomac Creek Area. The excavations resulted in the recovery of a total of 4,730 artifacts including 4,674 items of prehistoric derivation and 56 artifacts of historic derivation.

Eight features appeared to be natural in origin; three tree molds and five rodent burrows. Two features were historic; a buried bucket that had rusted away, and a postmold which lined up with several remnants of barbed wire stapled to two nearby trees. The ten remaining features appeared to represent the remains of 6 features, including two intact hearths (Features 5 and 10), two slightly disturbed hearths (Features 1 and 6), one disturbed pit (Feature 9), and a severely disturbed hearth which was comprised of several small pockets of fire-cracked rock and artifacts individually designated as Features 11, 13, 14, 15, and 16. Features 6 and 9 were most likely associated with the Townsend component, while Features 5 and 10 were most likely associated with the Potomac Creek component.

The prehistoric assemblage recovered during Phase III data recovery at 18BA444 yielded 9 triangular points (8 Madison and 1 Levanna?), 31 other bifaces, 3 side scrapers, 5 retouched flakes, 8 utilized flakes, 49 cores, 29 chunks (flakes clearly removed but lacking the formal attributes of cores), 2,781 flakes, 1,487 ceramic sherds, and 270 pieces of fire-cracked rock. Two concentrations of burned bone (evidently counted as 2 artifacts) were also located in the Potomac Creek Core Area. The lithic assemblage was dominated by quartz (upwards of 80%), followed by lesser amounts of rhyolite, chert, chalcedony, and other materials. Some of these materials are not available locally, suggesting maintenance of curated tool kits brought to the site from elsewhere. The ceramic assemblage included 830 Potomac Creek sherds (including 53 rims), 239 Rappahannock incised and fabric-impressed sherds (10 rims), and 418 unidentifiable quartz/grit-tempered sherds (probably Potomac Creek).

Absolute dates were obtained from three separate carbon samples recovered at the Grant Site, including two dates from hearth features in the Potomac Creek Core Area (one containing charred nut hull) and one from organics recovered from flotation samples taken from unit levels in the Townsend Core Area (including charred nut hull). The earliest date was associated with Rappahannock incised pottery; an uncalibrated date of 990 ± 70 radiocarbon years before present. When calibrated this translates to a calendrical date range from AD 896-1210. The two dates associated with the Potomac Creek component were 830 ± 80 years before present and 740 ± 70 years before present. When calibrated these translate to calendrical date ranges of AD 1030-1285 and AD 1157-1398 respectively. The three samples, therefore, overlap in the range of AD 1157 to AD 1210. Based on these date ranges and on the cultural data which suggest a single occupation during the Late Woodland period, it is not unreasonable to suggest that the data may relate to a single event or occupation of the site sometime in the late 12th or early 13th century.

Based on the data recovered, the Grant Site represents a seasonal basecamp occupied by Potomac Creek and Townsend peoples. It is believed that these components represent a single occupation of the site area, by both groups, at the same time. This is suggested by the distributions of artifacts cross-mended within each of the defined “core areas”. The fact that Potomac Creek and Townsend components co-occur on many western and eastern shore sites in Maryland, suggests that these peoples probably had social links, possibly involving kinship and/or trade. The Potomac Creek people clearly spent some length of time in the area, while the Townsend component appears to represent a more transient and ephemeral occupation, evidencing a short-term stay (based on size of artifacts, extent of the core areas, features, etc.). The probability that the Townsend peoples were probably just passing through is indicated by the narrow range of activities documented in association with that component. Phase III data recovery at 18BA444 revealed intact deposits, features, diagnostic artifacts, and organic material capable of yielding radiocarbon dates.

(Edited from the Maryland Historical Trust Synthesis Project)

References

  • Hoffman, Robert F., Daniel Wagner, and Roger Moeller
  • 1996. Phase III Archaeological Data Recovery at the Grant Site (18BA444), a Single Component Late Woodland Prehistoric Archaeological Site Located Near Owings Mills, in Baltimore County, Maryland. MAAR Associates, Inc., Newark, Delaware.

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