Serenity Farm Burial Ground is an Historic African American Cemetery site located on Serenity Farm in Charles County, Maryland.  The site also contains the remains of a short-term prehistoric encampment occupied periodically from the Late Archaic through Middle Woodland periods.

Archaeological Investigations

Archaeological excavations were conducted at the Serenity Farm Burial Ground 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.

In the 1990’s, a human skull and a long bone fragment were unearthed by property owners digging pipe trenches meant to provide a mobile home with water service. A severe storm during the summer of 2012 toppled a large tree in the area of the skull and long bone recovery. After the storm, property owners requested that SHA archaeologists investigate the tree fall area. During the initial investigation multiple grave shafts were observed, one shaft was partially excavated and, human bones and teeth were observed in situ. The location of the initial investigation and all observed burials were mapped for possible future and expanded investigations. A geophysical survey of the cemetery and immediate surroundings was completed as was a survey of the site using cadaver recovery dogs. Cadaver dogs marked several locations possibly containing human remains and the geophysical survey noted numerous areas of deep disturbance. All buildings, structures, landscaping and fallen trees had been cleared from the vicinity by this time. In June of 2013 the project area was pedestrian surveyed for the presence of additional artifacts or cultural features and several Native American artifacts were observed and recorded. No historic material was observed. Later that month and during July of the same year, the entirety of the nearly level section of the slightly peninsular landform was mechanically stripped to the depth of clearly intact subsoil. SHA archaeologists and consultant archaeologists from the Ottery Group of Kensington, MD shovel and trowel scraped the exposed ground surface in order to identify all grave shafts and any other historic or prehistoric features. In total, 23 grave shafts were recorded and no additional historic or prehistoric features were observed. Select few shafts were excavated and artifacts and human remains were removed and exhumed for analysis. All recovered remains were reburied.

Archeobotanical Studies

Twenty-seven samples of degraded wood associated with 11 human graves within the Serenity Farm Burial Ground were submitted to taxonomic identification.  Each of the samples appeared to represent fragments of wood that once formed a single artifact (i.e. portion of coffin or planking [vaulting] over the burial shaft).  Each of the samples was composed of wood fragments with varying amounts of sediment.  All samples were moist, and moisture content was maintained during the analysis.  One sample (Bag 14, Burial 11) contained iron nails.  Samples were weighed in their entirety and examined under the dissecting microscope (with magnification ranging between 10x and 40x).  A random subsample of five fragments of wood measuring greater-than 2mm in diameter was randomly selected for identification.

A clear cross section of wood fibers is necessary for identification, and due to the broken condition of the Serenity Farm Burial Ground specimens, adequate surfaces were present. Taxonomic identification was made using standard published keys (Panshin and deZeeuw 1980; Edlin 1969; Hoadley 1990) and a comparative reference collection of modern wood.  Twenty samples contained uncarbonized wood fragments, one sample contained carbonized woody material (Bag 27/Burial 2), and one sample contained a combination of burned and unburned wood (Bag 67/Burial 14).  A single sample (Bag 6/Burial 11) contained no wood fragments large enough for identification.  Most of the samples (23) were confirmed as pine of the yellow or hard pine group (Pinus spp.).  One sample contained oak (Quercus spp.) (Bag 49/Burial 17).


McKnight, Justine W.
2013 Letter Report:  Wood remains analyzed from Serenity Farm Burial Ground.  Prepared for the Ottery Group, Inc., and the Maryland State Highway Administration.  August 27.

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