The Winslow site (18MO9) is located on an expansive floodplain of the Potomac River, occupying a slight but perceptible rise in the surrounding topography near Seneca, Maryland. Winslow was the site of Early, Middle, and Late Archaic perid short-term encampments, Early and Late Woodland period villages, and a late 18th through early 19th-century rural farmstead. Most of this historic occupation was destroyed by the construction of the nearby C&O Canal around 1831.

The site is best known as a Late Woodland period village (ca. A.D 1300). Archaeology has documented a community pattern marked by a palisaded village center and a semi-circular arrangement of refuse pits. The pits usually contained a variety of refuse, including charcoal, ash, potsherds, animal bone, shell, fire cracked rocks, waste flakes, and stone tools. Archaeology at the Winslow site has helped advanced our understanding of household and community organization during the Late Woodland period.

Archaeological Investigations

The Winslow site was discovered in 1934 by Richard Slattery and Hugh Stabler. Test excavations were undertaken in 1940-41. The first phase of excavation was limited, since the landowner at that time required that all units be backfilled at the end of each day. The two archeologists, however, were able to investigate three human interments, and ten refuse pits were excavated at the site. They noted the circular pattern of refuse pit placement. Excavations were halted in the spring of 1941.

Indiscriminate looting of the site in the late 1950s stimulated a second phase of controlled excavations, beginning in 1959 and continuing until 1961, by the Southwest Chapter of the Archeological Society of Maryland (ASM). These were directed by Slattery along with Bill Tidwell and Doug Woodward. A final report on these excavations is published in Slattery and Woodward (1992:9-76). About 4850 square feet of the site was exposed, resulting in the recovery of a substantial collection of artifacts and the mapping of numerous features. A significant portion of the semicircular arrangement of refuse pits was examined and 168 post molds were mapped. Fifteen human burials were investigated. All individuals were interred in the flexed position, and no grave goods were included. Four canine burials associated with the Late Woodland period component were encountered. An enigmatic arcing line of cobbles was exposed at the east edge of excavations. The authors suggested this might have related to the one-time presence of a palisade at the site. Artifacts recovered included the typical range of flaked and groundstone Late Woodland tool types. A large collection of bone tools, tobacco pipes, and ceramic sherds was also recovered. A number of almost complete pottery vessels could be reconstructed. Most ceramic specimens would today be classified as Shepard Ware, typified by crushed sand or quartz temper. One particularly notable artifact class was stone discoidals possibly used as gaming pieces. Several charred corn cobs represent direct evidence of an agricultural subsistence base. Most importantly, a detailed map tied to a fixed datum was produced for the excavation. All artifacts recovered from the 1940-41 and 1959-61 excavations of the site are now curated by the Smithsonian Institution.

In 2002, the annual Tyler Bastian Field Session of ASM was conducted at the Winslow site under the direction of American University’s Richard Dent in order to 1) locate a domestic structure and any associated features, 2) determine if the Winslow site was palisaded, 3) recover charcoal for additional C14 dating, and 4) recover more detailed information on subsistence practices. A total of 24 2x2m units, 4 1x2m units, and 1 1x1m unit were excavated. Evidence of both a palisade and a dwelling structure were identified. Using GIS to plot the post holes and the line of cobbles uncovered during the 1959-61 investigation, the palisade was estimated to have been circular in shape, and about 275' (86m) in diameter, enclosing an area of about 6,604 square yards (5,809 square meters), or about 1.4 acres. The Hughes site (18MO1), located upstream and dating to about 100 years later, was much larger, with a projected diameter of at least 400'. This may indicate population growth in the Middle Potomac area between A.D. 1300 and 1400. The post molds at Winslow suggest that the posts were driven rather than set into holes, which may indicate a fairly short post. The posts were set about a foot apart. It may be that wattling and bracing was employed between the posts, or that they simply stood apart. The house structure was located in the central portion of the excavation, with shallow fire pits located within the confines of the structure itself. The more or less circular outline of the house consisted of 17 postmolds, about 12.7' (3.9m) in diameter, enclosing an area of a little over 127 square feet (12 sq. m). The structure is interpreted as a wigwam rather than a longhouse, due to its circular shape.

61,922 artifacts were recovered at the site. Flaking debris consisted of 10,048 quartz flakes, 8.021 quartz shatter, 2,846 rhyolite flakes, 770 rhyolite shatter, 427 chert and jasper flakes, and 182 chert and jasper shatter, along with 205 triangular projectile points (87 quartz, 86 rhyolite, 2 chert, 14 jasper, and 16 quartzite), 22 bifaces, 27 scrapers, 1 spokeshave, 8 wedges, and 4 utilized flakes. Also found were 35 bone tools, mostly awls or punches, and a rough stone hoe. Ceramics included 7,696 Shepard Ware body sherds and 228 rim sherds, 64 Mason Island sherds, 50 Keyser sherds, and less than 10 steatite-tempered sherds. Tobacco pipe remains included 31 stem and 8 bowl fragments. Two beads were also recovered. A total of 23,650 bone fragments or whole bones were excavated. All faunal material from feature contexts, along with seeds, will be eventually identified. In addition, some 4,347 pieces of fire-cracked rock were recovered.

In 2003, ASM/AU returned to the site, excavating an additional 18 2x2m and 2 1x2m units. Faunal and floral analyses and radiocarbon assays were conducted. A total of 16 human and two dog burials were encountered. A dog burial had been identified during the 1959-61 excavations. During the 2002 session, another dog was found intentionally placed in a shallow pit in a curled position with all four paws drawn together. The dog was most likely a medium-sized female. No grave goods were found with the dog. Of the humans, 11 were adults (8 females, 3 males) and 5 were infants. Three empty burial pits were also encountered. Of the human burials, three were found during the 1940-41 session, 12 during 1958-59, and one adult female in 2003. All interments were made in the flexed position, and no grave goods were included.

Two structures were exposed during the 2002-03 excavations, both elongated circular wigwams framed with long thin posts driven into the ground and then lashed together above to create a simple frame. Several hearth and pit features were found in and around these house structures. The female burial recovered in 2003 was found within one of the structures, possibly indicating that the building was her habitation.

During early excavations at the site, an arc of rocks was discovered which could have indicated the presence of a palisade wall around the site. However, no post molds were identified in that vicinity. The 2002-03 excavations re-exposed the rocks, and nearby units identified a line of twelve post molds averaging a little over 3.5" (9cm) in diameter and about 12" (30cm) apart. Cross-sectioning all 12 revealed good profiles of pointed posts apparently driven into the ground. These post molds show the very bottoms of the original palisade posts protruding into undisturbed subsoil. By projection, Dent suspects that the buried portions of the original posts averaged a little over 9" (23.3cm) in length. It was clear that these particular posts were driven into the ground instead of having been buried in postholes or a trench.

Archeobotanical Studies

Nine soil samples of unknown volume were submitted for study to archeobotanical analyst Justine McKnight. The samples were processed using a modified SMAP (Shell Mound Archaeological Project)–type flotation system. The flotation samples derived from nine features (feature numbers 36, 37, 38, 39, 41, 44, 45, 46, and 47) – all of which are small pits or depressions related to the Late Woodland period occupation. Flotation produced 47.76 grams of carbonized plant remains. Recovered remains were both abundant and diverse, and the condition of recovered organic remains was very good. The samples contained a predominance of wood charcoal, nuts, maize and beans, the carbonized seeds of a variety of wild fruits, fungi, monocot stem fragments, and amorphous carbon. Additionally, non-carbonized seeds were present in the majority of samples analyzed. These are thought to be modern intrusions into archaeological contexts.

Wood charcoal occurred within eight of the nine samples analyzed. A total of 1,784 fragments of carbonized wood (>2mm in diameter) weighing 21.87 grams was recovered. Of this total, a sub-sample of 144 fragments (a maximum of 20 fragments per sample) was randomly selected for identification. This sub-sample revealed an overwhelming predominance of white oaks, along with hickory, maple, red oak, and American chestnut.

A total of 687 fragments of carbonized nutshell weighing 8.52 grams was recovered from the Winslow site feature samples. Nuts were present in three of the nine samples, with concentrations of nutshell conspicuously corresponding with the possible hearth features. Thick-walled hickory dominated the nutshell assemblage (604 fragments), accompanied by small quantities of acorn (3 fragments).

Flotation recovered 12 carbonized seeds weighing 0.06 grams. Seeds occurred in three of the analyzed samples. Identified taxa included (in order of abundance): raspberry or blackberry (5 seeds), poke (1 seed), cherry or plum (1 fragment), sumac (1 seed), grape (1 seed), and grass (1 seed). Two specimens were not identifiable.

Cultivated plant remains were present in all of the Winslow site flotation samples. A total of 2,135 specimens weighing 8.97 grams was recovered. Corn and bean were identified. Maize (Zea mays) remains incorporated a variety of morphological elements (totaling 2,134 specimens), including cupules, cupule fragments, glumes, and kernel fragments. Common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) remains were limited to one cotelydon fragment.

Miscellaneous archeobotanical materials were contained within three of the nine flotation samples. Three fungal fructification fragments, one monocot stem fragment, and twenty-one fragments of unidentifiable carbon were recovered.

Archeobotanical materials recovered from Late Woodland period contexts at the Winslow site provide valuable information regarding subsistence and landscape utilization in the Middle Potomac Valley. Exploitation of local forest environments for mast, fuel, and building materials, utilization of edible wild fruits, and the rigorous cultivation of maize and beans describe site ethnobotany, and are consistent with our understanding of cultural adaptations that define the Montgomery Focus.


Dent, Richard J.
2005 The Winslow Site: Household and Community Archeology in the Middle Potomac Valley. Maryland Archeology 41(1,2): 1-51.
McKnight, Justine
2005 Flotation-recovered Archeobotanical Remains from Feature Contexts at the Winslow Site (18MO9), Montgomery County, Maryland. Maryland Archeology 41(1,2): 52-59.
Slattery, Richard G. and Douglas R. Woodward
1992 The Montgomery Focus: A Late Woodland Potomac River Culture. Archeological Society of Maryland Bulletin No. 2.

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