Monday, June 1, 2009

Day 1: Market Master's House and Square, Shovel Testing

My name is Dave Gadsby, and I’m Assistant Director of the Center for Heritage Resource Studies at the University of Maryland. I’m also a doctoral student at the American University in Washington, DC, where I’m writing a dissertation on community archaeology in North Baltimore. I’m ALSO an archaeologist at the Washington, DC office of the National Park Service. So, I wear a number of hats and live a full and happy life. I hold a Masters of Applied Anthropology from the University of Maryland, and I’ve been an archaeologist, working mostly in Maryland, since 1994. My research interests range from 17th-century Puritan sites to 19th-century industrial workers’ houses and beyond and I’m most interested in the ways that people form and maintain communities, and how our understanding of communities in the past helps us to create them in the present. I’m particularly excited to be working in partnership with our friends at State Highways on this Bladensburg Archaeology project, and look forward to discovering exciting things over the next two weeks.
"We began work today at the Market Master’s House by laying out a grid and placing shovel test pits (STPs) across the property. Shovel test pits are small excavation units designed to give archaeologists a general ideal of where artifacts and features might be distributed across the site. They also give us the opportunity to study how soils are laid down on the property. At the Market Master’s house, they’ll also help us understand the results of a Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey conducted there earlier this spring. In addition to excavating the shovel test pits, we intend to place a number of larger excavation units around the property. We’ll also test portions of the parking lot by removing blacktop with a backhoe, and hand excavating below that surface. We began to excavate the shovel test pits today, and already have some interesting results, with objects, such as ceramics and handmade nails, dating to the 18th and 19th centuries being recovered from the STPs. Its clear from these preliminary excavations that there’s a great deal of information to be recovered from the Market Master’s House, and the next fourteen days are sure to be informative ones. We’ll certainly have exciting objects and features to show to our visitors this Saturday at the public dig day."

Here is a French gunflint we found today:


  1. How do you know it's French? Was it trying to run away?

  2. Does the ground surrounding the Market Master's House appear to be less turned-up (in terms of a jumble of layers and fill) than it was at the Magruder House?

    Wouldn't that aid you in setting the appropriate time context for an object you uncover?

  3. It does look promising right now that we might find areas at the Market Master's with stratified artifact deposits, but we won't be sure until we finish our test units and examine the data. It certainly is the case that cultural levels go quite a bit deeper here than at the Magruder House. Some shovel test probes went down four feet before we hit sterile, with five or six stratigraphic levels. We are hoping for the best.

  4. Julie SchablitskyJune 3, 2009 at 6:57 PM

    The Market Master's artifacts appear to be in better shape and it feels like I am digging at the beach! Very sandy clay loam compared to the rounded gravel matrix we had at the Magruder House.