The Stearns site (18CV17) is a predominantly Late Woodland period oyster-shell midden located on the east bank of the Patuxent River in Calvert County, Maryland.  The shell midden overlies earlier prehistoric occupations at the site dating to the Early and Late Archaic and Early and Middle Woodland periods. 

Archaeological Investigations

The site was observed by Richard Stearns during his Patuxent River survey in the 1930s and 1940s.  In 1980-1981, Laurie Steponaitis catalogued Stearns’ collection and conducted her own surface collection of the site as part of her survey of the Patuxent River drainage.  Also in 1981, Wayne Clark and Mike Smolek surface collected the southern portion of the site and walked the adjacent shoreline, observing a pit feature eroding out of the bank.  Pogue and Clark excavated the remnants of the eroding pit feature in 1984, and Pogue conducted investigations at the site in 1986, excavating thirty-one 2 x 2 meter units.  Laurie Steponaitis conducted further excavations in 1988.  Steponaitis proposed to investigate the Early Woodland component at the site, but found mostly Late Woodland material.  She included macro-botanical studies as part of her research.  Two radiocarbon dates have been obtained from the site: 650 BP +/-60 (Beta-48557) and 491 BP +/-125 (UGa-5581).

Archeobotanical Studies

Sixteen flotation samples were secured from three Late Woodland pit features during the 1986 and 1988 excavations (Features 7, A, B).  Sixteen soil samples totaling 90 liters were flotation-processed using a SMAP-type flotation system, producing 32.48 grams of carbonized plant macro-remains (an average of 0.361 grams per liter of feature fill floted).  Feature A, a stratified refuse pit, produced the most varied assemblage from the site.  Samples from this feature yielded shells from three types of nuts, a blueberry seed, and a few miscellaneous seeds.  In addition to these wild plant remains, eight of the eleven samples from Feature A contained fragments of either maize kernels or cupules, and one sample contained an entire maize kernel.  Wood charcoal from Feature A produced an uncalibrated date of 491 +/- 60 BP: AD1441 (UGA 5581).  An additional radiocarbon date (also on wood charcoal) was obtained in the fall of 1991 from Beta Analytic, producing an uncalibrated date of 650 +/- 60 BP: AD1300 (Beta 48557). Provenience records for this sample are being sought.  Feature B was a concentration of carbonized plant material.  A large quantity of wood charcoal was contained in this feature; food plant remains were limited to two fragments of hickory nutshell.  Feature 7 contained proportionally more hickory shell than any other feature examined; it also yielded a fragment of a maize kernel.  C. Margaret Scarry performed the archeobotanical analysis on the Stearns site material.

UGA Lab No
Measured Age
Cal 2 Sigma Low
Cal Median Probability
Cal 2 Sigma High
Pit A
491 +/- 125BP
AD 1266
AD 1441
AD 1664
650 +/- 60 BP
AD 1272
AD 1344
AD 1413


Pogue, Dennis J.
1987 Stearns Site (18CV17S) Excavation Summary. Manuscript on file, Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum.
Scarry, C. Margaret
1991 Food Plant Remains from the Patterson and Stearns Sites on the Patuxent River, Calvert County, Maryland. Manuscript on file, Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum.

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