Pig Point (18AN50) is a highly significant multi-component site on the Patuxent River in southwestern Anne Arundel County, at the juncture of the Patuxent River and its Western Branch. The Lost Towns Project has conducted excavations here since 2009 and has proven nearly continuous occupation of the site for about 8,500 years, beginning in the Early/Middle Archaic time period. Artifacts have even suggested the site may have been utilized during the Paleoindian period, although no intact soil strata or features have been found that date to that very early time (around 10,000 years ago).
For thousands of years of prehistory, native people used this area as a base camp or village. We can tell that the area was used more heavily during some time periods and less during others. There are likely many reasons for this, such as a fluctuating climate, changes in sea level and salinity of the river (which in turn changes the plants and animals that live there), and shifts in political or territorial zones. For example, the site was heavily used between about A.D. 1100 – A.D. 1300, and thousands of pot sherds, debitage (small pieces of stone waste left behind during tool manufacture), bone tools, and other faunal materials (like mammal, fish, and bird bones and oyster and mussel shells) tell the story of their time here. The native people appear to have largely ended their intensive habitation at Pig Point in the 1300s, for reasons that we can only speculate at this point.
In the late seventeenth century, the site was settled by European immigrants to the Maryland colony, and soon a town formed. This town also went through several periods of boom and bust, with a tobacco inspection station, several stores, a post office, and a steamship wharf existing at various times. According to historical documents, the population fluctuated between 50-200 people between about 1700 and the early 1900s. By the early twentieth century, the river had filled with so much silt that the wharf was incapable of handling the large steamships that once brought goods and people from the Chesapeake Bay. This marked the end of the town (variously called “Bristol”, “Pig Point” and “Leon” through the centuries), and all of the parcels reverted to private ownership. Today, there are a few houses at Pig Point, and it is the only privately-held portion of the Patuxent River shoreline in this part of Anne Arundel County.
The Lost Towns Project first became interested in excavating at Pig Point in 2008, when we were awarded a grant from the Maryland Historical Trust (MHT) to study the Middle Woodland time period (dating from about 500 B.C. – A.D. 1000). In Year I of this grant, we examined every one of the 169 previously recorded Middle Woodland sites in Anne Arundel County, and Pig Point was among them. This site had long been known to collectors as a hot spot for prehistoric artifacts, and it was recorded as having Middle Woodland artifacts (among many other types) in the late-1960s. However, no archaeological excavations had ever taken place.
That changed in early 2009, when we visited the site and were given a tour by the landowner, who knew of several places on his property that consistently produced a high number of artifacts. He had accumulated quite a collection over the years, and was very interested in archaeologists exploring the site. After digging a few shovel test pits where we found handfuls of Indian artifacts and intact soil strata, we bumped Pig Point to the top of our list to explore further during Year II of the MHT grant. We excavated at the site in 2009 and 2010 in fulfillment of the MHT grant, and continued to excavate the site in 2012 and 2013. Please explore the links below to learn about our findings at this significant site and peruse our recent newsletter articles about the excavations.
If you are interested in joining us out in field as we excavate Pig Point and its surrounding area, please contact our volunteer and education coordinator, Jasmine Gollup at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be mindful that this site is located on private property, and volunteers can only visit the site when the Lost Towns crew is there excavating.
2009 Field Season
2010 Field Season
2011 Field Season
Read the October 2013 New York Times Article on the most recent findings at Pig Point here!
Read the geological summary of Pig Point by Don Mullis and James Marine of Tetra Tech, Inc. here!