What’s digging in Charles County?
Volunteer organization is bringing hidden treasures to Port Tobacco Market Day May 14
Archaeology is more than just digging up rocks, says the Charles County Archaeological Society of Maryland. It is history being told through artifacts about the region.
“People call it trash, but this is trash that tells us something about those who were here before us,” said Carol Cowherd, vice president of the Charles County Archaeological Society of Maryland.
The society is a nonprofit organization as well as a chapter of the Archeological Society of Maryland. Cowherd and Elsie Picyk, society treasurer, are just a few of the founding members of the Charles County chapter.
They said the group is excited to be participating in Port Tobacco Market Day on May 14, where the volunteers will be conducting public outreach and showcasing a wide variety of artifacts, Picyk said. Visitors will be able to touch displayed artifacts like bones from domestic animals and wildlife.
“We’ll be in front of Stagg Hall working with other vol- unteers and showing multiple displays of washing and digging various types of artifacts, while other displays will show what we do as an organization and how it ties it into the skills needed in archaeology such as biology, chemistry, geology,” Picyk said.
Society volunteers have found artifacts in Charles County registering as far back as 1634.
Some of the most historic items dug up include a smoking pipe stem, printer’s type, tin glaze found in Port Tobacco dating from the late 17th century and early 18th century, and Rhenish blue and grey stoneware from the 17th century, found in Benedict.
“Rhenish is found most commonly in Chesapeake sites and continued to be imported into this section of this country until the mid to late 18th century,” Picyk said. “Rhenish is a stoneware ceramic, tavern type of material. It’s very strong and actually came from Germany. We believe what we found is part of a mug or cup used in that timeframe.”
Cowherd said that in Port Tobacco, volunteers work to give residents a better picture of the past by searching through Maryland’s historical records to learn how artifacts tie together.
“We’re not concerned about how old the artifacts are because the value is in the information,” Cowherd said.
The archaeology group sponsors a variety of activities, including meetings, events and field visits. They also participate in even more public outreach activities during the month of April, otherwise known as Archeology Month.
“The purpose of Archaeology Month is to let those who are unaware about what archaeology is, learn about it. On April 16, Archaeology Day, there were various parts of Maryland brought together to see different artifact projects. It can be an eye-opening experience for many,” Picyk said.
During field work days, volunteers begin the process wth a hypothesis and determine whether they can prove or disprove their theory by using GPS coordinates to map, find, wash and catalog the artifacts. The artifacts they find will also tell them what social class lived in the region and what the distinct group of people contributed to the county’s history.
On April 12, the Charles County Commissioners proclaimed the month of April as Archaeology Month in recognition of the county’s rich history and heritage, exemplified by historic buildings, cultural landmarks and natural features.
“Archaeology is tying into historic tourism and the residents, as well as the county commissioners have been very supportive of archaeology and history by tying it into other historic properties in the county. We may not be the driving force but I think our existence is helping this overall history of Charles County,” Cowherd said.
Carol Cowherd, vice president of the Charles County Archaeological Society of Maryland Inc., and Elsie Picyk, treasurer, helped contribute to the extensive artifact display seen in this photo and developed by the Archaeological Society of Maryland Inc.
Elsie Picyk, Charles County Archaeological Society of Maryland Inc. treasurer, washes a 17th century Rhenish blue and silver stoneware artifact that was originally found in Benedict.