The Paw Paw site (18AG144) is located along the Potomac River in Allegany County, Maryland, within the C&O Canal National Historical Park. It is situated on a high terrace at a meander bend of the river across from the town of Paw Paw, West Virginia. Prehistoric occupations appear to have focused at 18AG144 during the Middle and Late Woodland periods.

Archaeological Investigations

The Paw Paw site was located by Dennis Curry in 1983 during a Phase I archaeological reconnaissance in anticipation of possible impacts by the MD Route 51 - Potomac River Bridge replacement project.

Phase II investigations included a controlled surface collection, shovel test pits, and 27 1x1m test units within the highway right-of-way. The controlled surface collection and shovel test pits aided in establishing site limits. The meter square test units uncovered three features: two oval pits and a portion of a possible sheet midden. The ceramic assemblage suggests an early Late Woodland period association for the site. The site has excellent preservation of floral and faunal materials; the discovery of significant features during Phase II testing indicates that other features such as postmolds (indicative of structures), hearths, trash pits, storage pits, burials, and a palisade might also be present. Findings at Paw Paw suggest it is a significant archeological resource with excellent research potential and is eligible for nomination to the NRHP. Additional testing was recommended if avoidance was impossible and the site was to be further impacted.

Archeobotanical Studies

Flotation samples and radiocarbon samples were attained and analyzed by Mr. Steven Hurst at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. Floral remains were recovered from all three features encountered at the site. Seed data are reported for individual features (13 knotweed seeds, 1 chenopodium seed, 1 sumac seed, 1 dock seed, 7 copperleaf seeds, and 3 miscellaneous seeds were recovered). Carbonized corn kernels, nutshells, and ‘other’ botanical remains are noted, although it is unclear which features produced these plant materials. These data indicate potential for additional archeobotanical research.

Samples of charred plant material were submitted to the Smithsonian Institution Environmental Research Center in Rockville, Maryland for radiocarbon dating. Feature 1 and Feature 3 produced uncalibrated radiocarbon dates of 1220 +/- 155 years BP: AD 730 (SI-6142) and 940 +/65 years BP: AD 1010 (SI6143). These dates place site occupation at the end of the Middle Woodland and early Late Woodland periods.

Smithsonian Env Res Lab No
Measured Age
Cal 2 sigma low
Cal Median Probability
Cal 2 sigma high
Feature 1
SI 6142
1220 +/- 155
Feature 3
SI 6143
940 +/- 65


Kavanagh, Maureen
1984   Phase II Archeological Investigations at the Paw Paw Site (18AG144), Allegany County, Maryland.  MGS File Report Number 183. (Maryland Geological Survey) MHT # AG 7B.

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