Site 18KE128 is located near the confluence of the Chesapeake Bay and one of its low-order tributaries on Fairlee Neck in Kent County, Maryland. A variety of native occupations have been documented at the site: a large, intact Early Woodland period oyster shell midden covers much of 18KE128, and it bears evidence of Late Archaic period and Middle Woodland period short-term camps.

Archaeological Investigations

18KE128was first recorded in 1974 by Steve Wilke and Gail Thompson, from the University of Washington, Seattle, during a survey of coastal areas in Kent County. A total of 455 lithic artifacts were collected from the site's surface. An oyster shell sample was collected for radiocarbon dating. The resulting date was 3095 +/- 80 BP (1145 BC), which would seem to indicate a Late Archaic period occupation at the site. However, Jay F. Custer of the University of Delaware’s Department of Anthropology has questioned the reliability of radiocarbon dates from oyster shell samples in the Upper Chesapeake. Therefore, this date is in question.

Archaeology continued at the site in 1989 in advance of building construction on the property. Investigations were conducted by the University of Delaware's Department of Anthropology. A transect of 20 shovel test pits was excavated. In all but one of these pits, a plowzone containing oyster shells and a few artifacts, mainly flakes, overlay a red sandy clay with extensive pebbles and gravels. However, the test pit excavated at the top of the knoll contained a dense concentration of abundant oyster shells within a dark, almost black, organic-rich soil below the 30 cm plowzone. This soil/shell horizon, which was less than 10 cm thick, closely resembled intact and undisturbed midden deposits at nearby 18KE17, and was thought to be of similar origin. Two 1m x 1m test units were excavated adjacent to this shovel test pit, and additional 1m x 1m units were then placed to determine the extent of the intact midden deposits and sample their contents. All units revealed a similar profile to that seen in the initial shovel test pit, with very little variation in midden thickness or depth. Based on the excavations, the intact midden deposits had an oval shape 9m long and 4m wide. Sixteen square meters of the midden, a little more than half the total, were excavated.

It was thought that the midden may have been especially thick in this location, so that this portion of the larger midden survived erosion and disturbance by plowing. Lithic artifacts were recovered from plowzone contxts. Two diagnostic projectile points were found on the site. A chert point found in the plowzone was an Amos type (Early Archaic period). The basal section of a quartz Pequea type (Middle Archaic-Middle Woodland periods) point was found within the midden itself. Numerous diagnostic ceramic sherds were found in both plowzone and midden contexts. Of the 34 sherds recovered, 33 were Wolfe Neck ware (Early Woodland period) sherds. The remaining sherd was an example of shell and crushed clay-tempered Wilgus ware (early Middle Woodland period), which was found in the plowzone. The Wolfe Neck sherds were almost equally distributed within the midden itself (n=17) and the plowzone above the midden (n=16). Fragments of at least four separate vessels were present. Although Pequea points are more common components of assemblages dating to the earlier periods, these points also occur in Early and Middle Woodland contexts. In fact, Pequea points were found in association with both Mockley and Wolfe Neck ceramics at the Wolfe Neck type site. Thus, the most likely age range for the intact midden at 18KE128 is 700-400 B.C. (Early Woodland period). The Amos point likely relates to an Early Archaic short-term camp that predates the midden, and the Wilgus sherd likely post-dates the intact midden.

Archeobotancial Studies

Soil samples from eight 50cm x 50cm excavation units in various sections of the excavated midden were subjected to flotation analysis. Original soil volumes are unknown, and the summary data is reported in the Maryland Archeology article on the site. Seeds, shells, and other ecofacts were identified in the light and heavy fraction samples. A total of 262 identifiable charred seeds were present, including 224 sumac, 26 pigweed, and 12 goosefoot seeds. The concentration of sumac seeds is interesting, as it is the largest concentration of this fruit from any coastal plain site in Maryland or Virginia. The sour fruit of the sumac is mostly seed, and can be chewed or brewed into a tea or beverage similar to lemonade. Sumac also has a variety of medicinal applications.

A small quantity of hickory nut and acorn shell fragments was also recovered.


Custer, Jay F., Keith R. Doms, Kristen Walker, and Adrienne Allegretti
1997 Archeological Investigations at 18KE128, Kent County, Maryland. Maryland Archeology 33(1, 2):45-58.

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