Discovery at Simpsonville Mill Archaeological Site

Photo from Howard County Recreation and Parks
This past spring, archaeologists with Howard County Recreation & Parks made an exciting discovery at the Simpsonville mill archaeological site within the grounds of the Robinson Nature Center! Found at the top of a builder’s trench feature and adjacent to an intact foundation wall was this “piece of eight” Spanish Reale! This Spanish Dollar was a common currency used throughout Europe and America until 1868.
In the 18th century, coins were valued by their weight in silver or gold; these coins had a patterned edge to prevent dishonest traders from shading slivers off the coins without being detected. These specific coins were called Pieces of Eight by the British because they cut the coins into bits of eight to make change. The coin from Robinson Nature Center, dated to sometime in the 1780s or early 1790s, would have been worth four “bits”, or one-half dollar.
What was this currency doing at Robinson Nature Center? Archaeological evidence has uncovered the remains of a foundation wall, suggesting someone was living here by the third quarter of the 18th-century, most likely a mill worker. It’s possible the Piece of Eight was thrown into the builder’s trench upon completion of the home! This coin serves as a wonderful dating tool for archaeologists and suggests a larger global influence on the residents of this site.
Archaeologists will be returning to Robinson Nature Center this fall to continue to investigate this history. Interested in volunteering with our upcoming archaeological explorations? Contact Kelly Palich at kpalich@howardcountymd.gov for more info. #HoCoHeritageHistory
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