Pleasant Prospect is a middle 18th to early 19th-century domestic site in Prince George’s County. The site, part of the Sprigg’s Request patent, represents the original location of a plantation manor house and associated residential and farm outbuildings that were occupied between the 1720s and the 1780s or early 1790s by Richard Duckett, his family, and possibly his employees and enslaved labor force.

Archaeological Investigations

Phase I testing at the Pleasant Prospect site in 2004 by the URS Corporation included 171 shovel test pits excavated at 20 meter intervals with 10 meter interval retests (52 of which were positive), which resulted in the recovery of 184 mid 18th through early 19th-century artifacts.

Phase II evaluation (also by URS) followed immediately, with a systematic surface collection and the excavation of 20 1x1 meter test units. Surface collection identified three distinct site loci. Ceramic sherds found in Loci 1 and 3 spanned the period from the mid 18th through the early 19th century. Artifacts recovered from Locus 2 dated primarily to the late 18th to early 19th century. Six historic features were identified within the site, including a brick house foundation, a cellar, a second possible cellar or structure base, and three pit features representing outbuildings and/or refuse deposits. The site was recommended as National Historic Register eligible based on these results.

Phase III data recovery was conducted by Greenhorne & O’Mara in 2006. Field investigations included a controlled surface collection, machine excavation of 34 trenches or blocks, and hand-excavation of 42 cultural features. The larger features appear to represent a series of time-transgressive structure locations, likely including the home of the Duckett family, a kitchen, meat house, wash house, and residential quarters that may also have had secondary work-related functions. The controlled surface collection and excavations yielded a large assemblage of artifacts, faunal remains, and charred botanical remains which were processed and analyzed.

Richard Duckett and Sprigg’s Request provide a fascinating vignette of plantation life during the mid to late 18th century in Maryland. Research indicates that Duckett was engaged in a market economy, apparently growing tobacco for sale. He used the proceeds to participate to some extent in the new market-oriented lifestyle with its emphasis on consumer consumption, most notably by purchasing dishes, furniture, books, and wine, and partaking in the tea ceremony, with all of its associated paraphernalia. However, Duckett’s market orientation was limited; for example, he did not build a grand Georgian-style manor house with associated formal gardens. That task he left to his son, Isaac Duckett, who repatented Sprigg’s Request and other properties as Pleasant Prospect and constructed the nearby Georgian-style Pleasant Prospect manor house.

Archeobotanical Studies

Data recovery efforts at Pleasant Prospect included analysis of historic plant remains recovered through soil flotation and hand-collection. Excavations at the site revealed domestic and outbuilding structures and activity areas utilized during the 18th century. Floral samples were processed and analyzed by Justine McKnight.

A total of 6 soil samples from 5 feature contexts and 18 hand-collected carbon samples from 10 feature contexts were selected for analyses. Flotation samples were processed using a Flote-Tech flotation system equipped with 0.325 mm fine fraction and 1.09 mm coarse fraction screens. Processing of 22 liters of cultural fill produced 67.8 grams of carbonized plant material (an average of 3.08 grams per liter of processed soil). A variety of economically important cultivated and wild plant taxa were represented in the flotation assemblage, including wood charcoal (dominated by white oak), the agricultural staples maize and wheat, nutshell, and weed seeds. Flotation samples also yielded non-carbonized seeds from 17% of the analyzed samples. Carpetweed and chickweed were identified, and were interpreted as being modern intrusions to the archaeological record.

The hand-collected botanical remains totaled 18 samples (36.56 grams). White oak wood charcoal, bark, the remains of orchard and wild tree fruits (peach and persimmon), and maize and beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) were documented.


Crowl, Heather, Justine S. Patton, Jason P. Shellenhamer, and Amy Barnes
2004 Phase I and II Archeological Investigations for the Pleasant Prospect Plantation Property, Prince George’s County, Maryland. URS Corporation, Inc.
Kreisa, Paul, Jaqueline McDowell, Justine Woodard-McKnight, Matthew Gill and Rebecca Kermes
2008 Phase III Archaeological Data Recovery of Site 18PR705 at the Waterford Development, Prince County, Maryland. Prepared by Greenhorne & O’Mara, Inc., for Washington Management & Development Company, Inc., Landover.

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