Paw Paw Cove Site
Period/Date of Construction:
11,500 B.C. to 1500 A.D.
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The Paw Paw Cove site comprises two archaeological localities designated 18TA212b and 18TA212c, located on Tilghman Island in Talbot County. It represents a stratified archaeological site along the Chesapeake Bay with occupation from Paleoindian through Late Woodland periods (c. 13,200-400 years B.P.). Measuring approximately 500 feet north-south by 800 feet east-west, the site is located along the shoreline on an upland interfluve terrace near two former spring-fed first-order streams. Archaeological evaluation of 18TA212b and 18TA212c included multiple shoreline collections, excavation of five one-by-one-meter test units, pedologic studies, geomorphologic investigations, and an assessment of the coastal processes impacting the site and its archaeological deposits. The site fits into a Springhead settlement pattern from the Paleoindian through Terminal Archaic periods (13,200-3000 years BP). The spring-fed stream associated with 18TA212b seems to have attracted only Paleoindian and Early Archaic hunters and gatherers. Importantly, the drastic climatic shift and intense winds associated with the Younger Dryas event buried the Paleoindian archaeological deposits at 18TA212b, as well as an ancient upland wetland pond located at 18TA212c. The spring-fed stream situated near 18TA212c seems to have attracted Paleoindian through Terminal Archaic hunters and gatherers. During the Early Woodland period (3000-2500 years BP), sea level rise altered the ecology of the area so that the landscape west of 18TA212b and 18TA212c became drowned, creating an estuarine cove-like setting. At this time, prehistoric settlement in the region focused on the locality designated as 18TA212c, which is topographically higher than 18TA212b, and the setting also experienced better drainage. From 3000 years ago until approximately 400 years ago, 18TA212c expressed a Cove focus settlement pattern. Research at both sites has revealed important information about the Late Pleistocene flora and fauna living on the Delmarva Peninsula, the Paleoindian Clovis settlements in the Middle Atlantic, the climatic changes that drastically impacted the Ice Age cultures of North America, how sea level rise during the Middle and Late Holocene directly influenced human subsistence and settlement pattern changes, the general archaeological site formation processes prevalent along the western flank of the Delmarva Peninsula, and the Early through Late Woodland period prehistoric long-distance trade and exchange.
Investigations at the Paw Paw Cove site (18TA212b and 18TA212c) provide a case study for the understanding of upland low resolution Paleoindian hunting camps within the Middle Atlantic. The site also provides excellent documentation of rapid Late Pleistocene climatic change and how it impacted Ice Age humans in North America. Both 18TA212b and 18TA212c could provide a case study of inundated Native American sites within the Chesapeake Bay region. Future archaeological investigation could document the spatial distribution of the buried Paleoindian occupation relative to the later occupations, which are confined to the surface. Given the fact that the Clovis occupation is so well defined stratigraphically, future research at these sites could investigate the possibility of pre-Clovis cultures in the Americas. Studies could also focus on how the rising sea levels in the Chesapeake Bay impacted human subsistence and settlement over the duration of the Paleoindian through Late Woodland periods. The Paw Paw Cove site (18TA212b and 18TA212c) meets the following criteria established by the National Register of Historic Places. The contains a buried and well-preserved Paleoindian occupation level with lithic and micro-floral remains that could provide significant information about Native American lifeways and the utilization of an ever-changing landscape. Future investigations of 18TA212b and 18TA212c through the analysis and dating of organics in the tidal marsh peat deposits and the study of the paleosols located beneath the Aeolian loess sediments that blanket the region.