The Harrison site (18AN423) is a multi-component occupation containing archaeological evidence of Early, Middle, and Late Archaic period camps, Early, Middle, & Late Woodland period shell middens, and an 18th-19th-century farmstead.  The site is located on the floodplain of the West River south of Galesville in Anne Arundel County.

Archaeological Investigations

The Harrison site was initially identified by Wilke and Thompson during their 1977 Maryland shoreline survey. They recorded the site as W-T, AAB 5.

Phase I testing was conducted by Engineering Science in 1987.  The site was renamed the Harrison site for the Harrison family, who had owned the property from 1709 through 1792.  The Phase I survey consisted of surface collecting plowed fields.  This survey revealed that the Harrison site was occupied during the Early Archaic period and periodically from the Late Archaic period through the Contact periods, as well as from the 17th through the 20th centuries.  Phase II evaluation was recommended.

Phase II testing (also by Engineering Science) consisting of the excavation of shovel test pits and larger test units in the wooded area surrounding the plowed fields, and the excavation of shallow trenches using a Gradall in the plowed areas.  When approximately 5% of the plowzone was removed, over 200 features were discovered. Thirty-five of these were sampled.  Twenty-nine were determined to be prehistoric cultural features, while the rest were natural.  No historic features were encountered.

Phase III data recovery operations by Engineering Science followed between August 1988 and January 1989.  The excavation strategy entailed the mechanical removal of the plowzone over more than 10 acres in order to facilitate identification and excavation of sub-surface features.  Over 2,000 features were identified, and of these, 1,037 were mapped, and 68 (almost 7%) were excavated.  The results indicate an intermittent multi-component prehistoric occupation throughout the project area, dating from the Early Archaic, and from the Late Archaic through the Late Woodland.  Radiocarbon dates have indicated a Late Archaic occupation at about 2650 B.C., and the presence of a possible Late Woodland temporary shelter at about A.D. 1060.  A date from a shell midden confirms the Late Woodland presence at about A.D. 1170, and two ring-shaped features, possibly storage structures, also contained Late Woodland artifacts.  A possible Middle Woodland feature was also identified. Organic residue analysis indicated that a variety of activities occurred at the site, including hunting, butchering, plant processing, fish processing, and skin working.

Archeobotanical Studies

The Phase III data recovery investigations included the study of preserved plant macro-remains and archaeological pollen.

Flotation samples were processed at the American Institute for Archaeology in Kampsville, Illinois.  Macro-botanical analysis was conducted by David Clark of the Catholic University of America.  Sixty-eight flotation samples from 34 features were processed and analyzed for plant macro-remains.  Due to project time constraints, analysis was limited to the identification of species represented in the archeobotanical samples; a detailed quantitative analysis was not conducted.

 Seed remains were the most common identifiable floral element.  Other floral materials included unidentifiable charcoal fragments and round or sphere-shaped fungus remains.  Seed remains represented 15 families, 21 genera, and 16 species.  Identified taxa include carpetweed, pigweed, sticktight, quickweed, yellow rocket (wild mustard), common elderberry, chickweed, lamb's quarter, three-seeded mercury, spotted spurge, butternut, prickly mallow, crabgrass, goosegrass, yellow foxtail, smartweed (knotweed), dock, common purslane, raspberry, and jimsonweed.  The entire floral assemblage was dominated by seeds of the common "weedy" plants.  Grasses were represented by four distinct species and were most abundant in terms of sheer numbers.  Yellow foxtail seeds were most prevalent and dominated many samples.  The most abundant non-grass species was pigweed (Amaranthus sp.), another common weed.  Remains from shrubs and trees were rare, and included elderberry, raspberry, and walnut. Although burnt remains were recorded in most samples, it is important to note that nearly all the seeds were unburned (not carbonized).  Considering the excellent condition of most specimens, the unburned seeds appeared to be of recent origin.

Soil samples for pollen analysis were sent to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh.  The analysis was conducted by Kathy W. Barnosky and Frances B. King.  Sixteen soil samples were analyzed for pollen content.  The pollen taxa are all typical of the pollen rain of the modern Northern Hardwood Forest.  In all the Harrison site examples, oak, beech, and black tupelo are abundant in the tree pollen record, and they would have probably been the dominant taxa of the local vegetation, just as today.  Samples revealed pine, oak, black tupelo, grass, and ragweed.  The pollen assemblages from the Harrison site resemble radiocarbon-dated records ranging in age from late-Holocene to present day.  The diagnostic characteristics are the near absence of pollen from spruce, pine, larch, and other taxa of the late-glacial and early-Holocene conifer forests, and the relative abundance of pollen from mesophytic deciduous hardwoods and weedy disturbance-related taxa.

Carbon samples from four cultural features containing analyzed floral materials were submitted for radiocarbon dating:

Beta No
Measured Age
Cal 2 sigma low
Cal Median Probability
Cal 2 sigma high
Feature 159
2470 +/- 70 bp
773 BC
599 BC
408 BC
Feature 1577
890 +/- 130 bp
AD 886
AD 1128
AD 1388
Feature 2684
Strat A
140 +/- 80 bp
AD 1651
AD 1800
AD 1954
Feature 2684
Strat B
4600 +/- 90 bp
3631 BC
3349 BC
3030 BC


1990 Archaeological Investigations at the Harrison Site (18AN423). Engineering Science for Michael T. Rose Companies. MHT # AN 128.
Barnosky, Cathy and Frances B. King
1990 Report on Preferred Fossils (Pollen Analysis Report). Appendix C to Archaeological Investigations at the Harrison Site (18AN423). Engineering Science for Michael T. Rose Companies. MHT # AN 128.
Clark, David T.
1990 An Analysis of Macro-Floral Remains from the Harrison Site. Appendix E to Archaeological Investigations at the Harrison Site (18AN423). Engineering Science for Michael T. Rose Companies. MHT # AN 128.

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