The Cresaptown site (18AG119) is a multi-component prehistoric site on a Pleistocene terrace of the North Branch of the Potomac River in Allegany County.  Archaeology at the site has documented a predominantly Late Woodland Mason Island complex village represented by Page limestone tempered ceramics. There is a minor Keyser component on the site along with a scatter of Archaic and earlier Woodland period materials from the plow zone.  Close to 100 per cent of the site was excavated due to its eventual development. Assistance with data recovery at the site was accomplished via summer field schools, an ASM field session and, in large part due to volunteers from the western Maryland chapter of ASM. 

Archaeological Investigations

Investigations began at the Cresaptown site in 1982 by Robert Wall with the assistance of a few volunteers from the western Maryland coal region survey team.  An ASM field session was conducted at the site during the summer of 1983 followed by Frostburg State College field schools in 1984 and 1985.

Excavations by Wall in 1982 initially involved one-meter tests and exploratory trenches, later followed by plow zone sampling and mechanical stripping to expose features in five-meter blocks.  Investigations continued by Wall with ASM volunteers over the course of 5 years.  The Late Woodland village occupation covers a roughly circular area measuring approximately 70 meters in diameter.  Scattered cultural materials associated with earlier occupations were documented over a much larger area.

Disturbance to the Cresaptown site has been considerable. It is roughly bisected by railroad tracks; the eastern portion of the site was largely destroyed by the construction of a sewage treatment plant; and the western (salvaged) portion of the site, following the completion of excavations, was bulldozed for a recreational ball park.  Local informants reported that burials and features were looted during the construction of the sewage treatment plant many years ago.

Excavations revealed 328 cultural features.  House patterns were evidenced as dense clusters of post molds, and it was estimated that at least six structures were present on the western half of the village.   Other features included numerous hearths scattered randomly throughout the site, burials, middens, storage pits, and refuse-filled pits.  A large trench along the western periphery of the site was well-documented, however, a palisade or stockade was not evident.

Archeobotanical Studies

Archeobotanical investigations associated with excavations at Cresaptown include flotation analysis by Roger Moeller, and were reported separately in 1986 and 1988.   Many flotation samples were analyzed.  Original soil volumes totaled a minimum of 1,454 liters.  The flotation samples contained maize, beans, walnuts, hickory nuts and smartweed.  Moeller's archeobotanical data have been generally summarized in the Maryland Archeobotanical Database. Detailed sample information will be entered at a later date.

Wood charcoal in association with beans and corn from Feature 275 produced uncalibrated radiocarbon dates of 1095+/- 60 BP: AD 938 (SI-7026) and 2185 +/- 75 BP (SI-7027).   Feature 275 is a Late Woodland burial with triangles and Page (Early Late Woodland) ceramics.  These early dates are thought by Wall to be in error due to coal dust contamination (from passing trains).  More reasonable dates from uncontaminated areas of the site include two dates from Mason Island complex Features180 and 259 (below). The more comprehensive list of dates published in Boyce and Frye’s (1986) compilation of radiocarbon dates across the state of Maryland include a number from Cresaptown that were either small diluted sample from contaminated contexts.

Smithonian Env Res Lab No
Measured Age
Cal 2 Sigma
Cal Median Probability
Cal 2 Sigma
Feature 275
SI 7026
1095 +/- 60 BP
Feature 275 SI - 7027 2185 +/- 75 BP 391 224 54
Feature 259 SI - 7025 915 +/- 70 BP 999 1118 1013
Feature 180 SI - 7024 950 +/- 45 BP 1014 1096 1207
Feature 251 Beta 272858 540 +/-40 BP 1308 1399 1441

As part of a cultigen dating project supported by the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory in 2009/2010, a maize kernel fragment from an early Late Woodland  Feature 251 at the Cresaptown site were selected for direct radiocarbon dating using the AMS technique.  The sample produced an uncalibrated radiocarbon date of 540 +/40 BP/AD 1410.


Boyce, Hettie and Lori Frye
1986 Radiocarbon Dating of Archeological Samples from Maryland .  (MHT #MD10).
Moeller, Roger
1986 Flotation Analysis of the Cresaptown Site (18AG119).  Unpublished Ms.
1988 More Flotation Analysis at the Cresaptown Site (18AG119).  Unpublished Ms.
Kollmann, Dana D., and Robert D. Wall
2002 A Little Bite of Prehistory.  Maryland Archeology 38(1):1-3.
Wall, Robert D.
1989 A Preliminary Archaeological Data Base for the Maryland Coal Region.  (MHT # GA46).
1997 Late Woodland Period Occupation of the Upper Potomac Valley and the Cultural Affiliation ofWestern Maryland Protohistoric Cultures.  P. 14.  Prepared for the MHT Preservation Grant ProgramNon-Capital Project.  (MHT #AG55).
2001 Late Woodland Ceramics and Native Populations of the Upper Potomac Valley.  Journal of MiddleAtlantic Archaeology 17:15-36.

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