The multi-component Patterson site (18CV65) contains the remains of Early, Middle, and Late Archaic period camps and Early, Middle, and Late Woodland period shell middens. The site is located in a plowed field on a low terrace above the Patuxent River, extending from a small marsh northward. The shell midden is deepest to the south, closest to the marsh.

Archaeological Investigations

Laurie Steponaitis (1981) surveyed the Patterson site during her Patuxent River drainage project. In 1987, Stuart Reeve conducted salvage excavations on a Middle Woodland pit (Feature 1) containing a human burial that was eroding out of the river bank. And Steponaitis and Jim Gibb excavated portions of the site with a team of Earthwatch volunteers in 1988.

Archeobotancial Studies

Archeobotanical studies were conducted by C. Margaret Scarry as part of the Steponaitis and Gibb project.

Twenty-one flotation samples were secured from five features (the Middle Woodland pit described above and four small Late Woodland pits -- Features 2, 3, 5, and 14). Twenty-one soil samples totaling 120 liters were flotation-processed using a SMAP-type flotation system (Watson 1976), producing 135.82 grams of carbonized plant macro-remains (an average of 1.132 grams per liter of feature fill floated).

Feature 1, the Middle Woodland storage/refuse pit with a burial at its base, produced the most varied assemblage of food plant remains from the site. Hickory nutshell dominated the samples from Feature 1, but acorn nutshells and meats, grape seeds, and blueberry seeds were present. The feature also produced a few miscellaneous seeds from plants with no obvious food use. The mix of resources found in Feature 1 suggests an occupation spanning mid-summer into the fall.

Food plant remains were sparse in the four Late Woodland period features sampled for archeobotanical remains. Only Feature 3 contained more than a trace of food plant remains, and the assemblage from this feature could not be described as either abundant or varied. Maize is tentatively identified from Feature 3, with a single fragmentary specimen recovered. The paucity of food plant remains in the Late Woodland features at the Patterson site may be because these shallow features offer little protection from the mechanical stresses of the shell midden. Several of the features, however, contained moderate quantities of wood charcoal, which is also quite fragile. Thus, it is possible that plants were not major elements in the meals that were prepared in or around these features.


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.
Watson, Patty Jo
1976 In Pursuit of Prehistoric Subsistence: A Comparative Account of Some Contemporary Flotation Techniques. Mid-Continental Journal of Archaeology v.1(1): 77-100.

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