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Annual Archeology Field Session

This cooperative venture between the MHT Archeology Program and the Archeological Society of Maryland runs 11 days, inclusive of weekends and the Memorial Day holiday, and is open to the public. The purpose of the Field Session is to train lay persons in archeological methods and teach Maryland's past through hands-on involvement, while making meaningful contributions to the study of Maryland archeology.

The annual Field Session, now in its 48th year, has investigated sites ranging from Archaic camps to Late Woodland villages to historic mills and plantations. It has been held in 14 of Maryland's 23 counties, and has examined 34 different sites.

Site location on the 1670 Augustin Herrman Map of the Chesapeake
Site location on the 1670 Augustin Herrman Map of the Chesapeake

2019 Field Session

This year's excavations will be held at Billingsley House near Upper Marlboro in Prince George's County. Owned by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Billingsley is operated as a historic house museum by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), who have graciously agreed to host and to assist with the excavations and project logistics this year.

Though the house museum dates later (to the 18th century), the site is the core of a 700-acre tract that was patented to Major John Billingsley in 1662, "…for transportation of 14 servants in the year 1650." Though it's pretty clear from the archival record that Major Billingsley never actually lived on the property, a European-built structure is depicted on the parcel on a map of the Chesapeake published by Augustine Herrman in 1673 (and drafted much earlier). Whether or not this structure depicts an actual dwelling or is merely intended to symbolize surveyed and patented land is still an open question. What is not in question, is that the tract was inhabited.

The Herrman map marks the presence of not one, but two 17th-century Indian villages on the Billingsley parcel: one named "Wighkawamecq" and the other, "Coppahan." In addition, the Proceedings of the Maryland Assembly on May 23rd, 1674 make it clear that Billingsley purchased his 700 acres from the "Mattapany and Patuxon Indians," at least some of whom, "…doe Continue upon the Land." This statement, as well as Herrman's map, strongly suggest that two indigenous groups were living on this land in the mid 17th century. In late 2018, MHT Archeology staff conducted a magnetic susceptibility survey of the fields at Billingsley in order to identify areas of past human activity. The magnetic susceptibility of surface soils can be influenced by past human activity such as burning, digging, the introduction of organic matter, and the introduction of foreign stone or other raw materials. Prehistoric artifacts had been recovered from the site, and hearths from ancient cooking fires would be expected to influence the magnetizability of the soils on-site.

Preliminary results of 5 m interval magnetic susceptibility survey, October 2018
Preliminary results of 5 m interval magnetic susceptibility survey, October 2018.

MHT identified a roughly 1.3 acre anomaly of culturally modified soils at Billingsley. Furthermore, the location of this anomaly matches almost perfectly the location of the "W" in "Wighkawameck" on the 17th-century Augustine Herrman map. The principal goal of the field session, this year, will be to investigate this anomaly and determine if evidence can be located tying the cultural deposits within the anomaly to the 17th century Indian village of Wighkawamecq.

The Field Session will run for 11 consecutive days beginning on Friday, May 24th and ending on Monday, June 3rd, inclusive of weekends and the Memorial Day holiday. You are invited to participate for as little as a few hours to as much as the entire 11 days. For more information, click below.


For More Information

For more information on the field session, or on how to join the Archeological Society of Maryland, contact Dr. Charlie Hall at (410) 697-9552.