The following article was published in the May 16, 2021 Baltimore Sun. It was written by Rachael Pacella.
For the past year and a half workers carefully excavated the county’s 17th prehistoric archaeological site, found at Jug Bay, cataloging evidence of occupation by the land’s indigenous people thousands of years ago. That site work was wrapping up in April, Chief of Cultural Resources Jane Cox said, when they decided to do some digging in the area to see if anything else could be found by the Patuxent River.
The pits they dug yielded artifacts at such a density, Cox said they believe they have discovered a 17th-century home. Other sites from that period are tens of miles away, Cox said.
“There’s no way that those artifacts could have ended up in that area unless somebody was living there and deposited them as part of the everyday, average domestic activity,” Cox said.
Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary includes more than 1,500 acres of wetlands, forests and fields along the Patuxent River and is operated by the Anne Arundel County Department of Recreation and Parks.
The discovery is new but with grant funding, assistance from local universities and many volunteer hours, Cox hopes to uncover the house’s foundation and learn more about who might have lived there and how they lived. It is the county’s 24th archaeological site from that era, Cox said.
“We’ve been digging this prehistoric site in intensive detail for a year and a half. And it’s literally the last day as we’re getting ready to close out, we started finding colonial artifacts in a really dense concentration,” Cox said.
The site was as backwoods and isolated as could be, but the artifacts include ornate ceramics. She said they hope to learn about the family or person’s diet, including if they raised animals or hunted.
“What was the everyday guy’s life like?” Cox said.
For the volunteers who are the lifeblood of the county’s archaeology program, the prospect of such an exciting find after months of isolation and separation from the program due to COVID-19 offers something to look forward to.
Barry Gay, of Crofton, was present when the discovery occurred. He is a retiree and paints landscapes of the sites where they dig, as well as reproductions of what artifacts might have looked like whole. He started volunteering in 2009, and said the outdoor work has been a gratifying counter to 32 years of military service spent largely indoors with fluorescent light.
“It’s been fun ever since. I’ve done over 40 different Native American sites and Colonial sites,” Gay said.