Friday, October 2, 2009


I'm working now up on the C&O Canal in Williamsport, Maryland. Williamsport was near the midpoint of the canal, and it was one of the three major ports along it. The other two were Cumberland at the western end, which is way out in the middle of nowhere, and Georgetown, DC at the eastern end, where it is too expensive to acquire land. So the National Park Service has planned since the 1970s to make Williamsport into a center for interpreting how the canal worked. This pictured shows the boat basin known late in the canal's history as the Cushwa Basin, after the owners of the warehouse that still stands beside it. When the NPS acquired the canal, this was a muddy, trash-strewn hole, and its excavation and rewatering were part of the first phase of the Williamsport restoration.

The next phase is to rewater a mile or so of the canal, including a lock and the aqueduct across Conococheague Creek, and then have boat rides. The construction might involve disturbing a couple of known archaeological sites, and right now we are testing part of a prehistoric site along the canal. This site includes a surface layer full of artifacts dating to the Late Woodland period, AD 1000 to 1550, and, we think, another occupation layer about 4 feet down. Not sure how old that is, but as a guess maybe 4000 years. Here my crew is opening a test unit into the edge of the river terrace. We found a lot of small potsherds and a couple of broken stone tools in the upper levels, but we haven't reached the lower occupation surface yet. The weather for the past few days has been wonderful, dry, partly sunny and about 70 degrees. On days like this, finding artifacts in the woods, archaeology is a wonderful thing.

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