Serenity’s Surprise is a 17th century domestic site located on Serenity Farm in Charles County, Maryland.  The site also contains a Middle Woodland era prehistoric component.

Archaeological Investigations

Archaeological excavations were conducted at the Serenity’s Surprise by The Ottery Group, Inc. and the Maryland State Highway Administration during the spring and summer of 2013.  The study formed an important part of SHA’s landscape study along MD231. Historic-era cultural occupations of the site were focused prior to 1715 (based on the absence of white salt-glazed stoneware).  Recovered artifacts suggest establishment of a rural household on site in the middle to late seventeenth century and occupied for 20 to 40 years.

Archeobotanical Studies

Flotation samples and hand-collected botanical samples were recently processed and analyzed from Historic cultural components at the Serenity’s Surprise site (18CH821).   A total of nine soil samples for flotation and twelve samples of hand-collected plant material were obtained from excavated historic contexts.  Samples were selected for processing and macro-botanical analysis based on their potential to provide information regarding historic foodways, farmstead economy, and the definition and management of work space.  The selected samples derive from seven discrete cultural features (1, 3, 14, 15, 17, 26 and 44) as well as from non-feature contexts.  Sampled proveniences are thought to relate directly to domestic and agricultural activities within the site core.

Flotation processing of a site total of 69.87 liters of cultural fill produced a total of 23.74 grams of carbonized plant macro-remains (an average of 0.3398 grams per liter).   A variety of economically important, naturally occurring plants were represented in the analyzed assemblage:  These include a predominance of wood charcoal (oaks and hickories), carbonized nutshells (hickory, walnut), burned seeds (jimsonweed was identified), and amorphous carbon and fungi.  In addition to carbonized archeobotanical remains, unburned seeds interpreted as being modern I origin were noted in eight of the nine flotation samples analyzed.

Hand-collected archeobotanical samples were collected from Features 3, 15, 17, 26 and 44, as well as from non-feature cultural contexts.  A total of 130.43 grams of carbonized plant material was analyzed.  Wood charcoal, nutshells, and farm and orchard products were represented within the hand-collected assemblage.

Identified wood charcoal reveals the utilization of locally available deciduous trees (oaks, hickory, maple and pine) for fuel and construction.   A variety of economically important wild and cultivated plant foods were documented from contexts directly linked to the function of the site as a domestic locus and farm.  Recovered comestibles include staple field and orchard crops (maize, peaches), and native edibles (hickory nuts and walnut).


McKnight, Justine W.
2013 Archeobotanical Remains from Serenity’s Surprse (18CH821):  Analysis of Flotation Samples and Hand-Collected Plant Remains.  Charles County, Maryland.  Prepared for the Ottery Group, Inc., and the Maryland State Highway Administration.


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