The Myrtle Point site (18ST569) is located on the Patuxent River in St. Mary’s County. Archaeological evidence from Myrtle Point suggests that the site has been sporadically occupied for 10,000 years. Although artifacts from the Early Archaic through the Historic period have been recovered, occupation of the site appears to have been most concentrated during the Late Woodland period.

Archaeological Investigations

The Myrtle Point site was discovered in 1986 during a Phase I archaeological survey of the 211-acre Patuxent River Farms property. The preliminary survey identified 37 sites, including 9 which were determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Two National Register-eligible sites which could not be avoided during construction, the Myrtle Point site (18ST569) and the Thomas Point site (18ST570), were further investigated from 1987 through 1989.

The Phase I surface collection was conducted in seven 5m-wide transects, which were cleared, plowed, and disked along the length of the field. Transects 1 to 5 were generally 15m apart, while Transects 6 and 7 were more widely spaced; approximately 27m and 60m from adjacent transects, respectively. Each transect was collected in 5mx5m units. In total, 725 surface units were collected in Area P. The Myrtle Point site extends for more than 200m along the river bluffs across Transects 1 to 7 and for a maximum of 160m south from the bluffs in Transect 4. The site has the longest record of occupation and the highest density of artifacts of any site discovered during the 1986 survey. Eight projectile points were recovered within the site boundaries, including three Piscataway, three Bare Island, one Calvert, and one Late Woodland period triangular point. Ceramics included three Popes Creek sherds, one Accokeek sherd, and 29 shell-tempered Late Woodland period sherds.

Phase II and III investigations were conducted by Julia King and Joe Herbert in 1987 and 1988. Phase II testing consisted of 373 10mx10m surface collection units. Phase III work involved mechanical stripping of plowzone, which exposed 20 features for excavation. Phase II testing yielded further examples of both sand-tempered and shell-tempered ceramic types. These included Accokeek, Rappahannock, and Sullivan Cove wares. Cultural features included historic drainage ditches and prehistoric shallow basins and tree-throws which were used as fire hearths and refuse disposal pits during the Middle and Late Woodland periods. Basin-shaped pits were generally small and contained oyster shell, fire-cracked rock, or both. Radiocarbon dates and a Rappahannock Fabric-Impressed sherd date two of the tree throws to the Late Woodland period. Radiocarbon dates for two basins filled with fire-cracked rock indicate Middle and Late Woodland period use. Lithic debris and faunal remains in feature fill were very sparse.

No evidence of architectural structures, storage facilities, or burials was observed. The pits were shallow and suggested single-episode or short-term use. In general, feature data indicate that the site served as a location for short-term occupations by small groups from the Early Archaic through the Late Woodland periods. Late Archaic activities at the site probably included procurement and reduction of quartzite, judging by stone tools and debris.

Archeobotanical Studies

Phase III investigations included macro-botanical analysis by Gary Crites at the University of Tennessee. A 10-liter flotation sample was collected from each excavated feature subarea. Samples were processed using a freshwater froth flotation system.

Six cultural features (all hearths, pits, or basins) were sampled for archeobotanical remains (Features 5, 6, 7, 16, 18, 21). Floral remains from four of these features produced uncalibrated radiocarbon dates:

Beta No
Measured Age
Cal 2 sigma low
Cal Median Probability
Cal 2 sigma high
Feature 5
1050+/- 60
AD 832
AD 984
AD 1155
Feature 6
1740 +/- 90
AD 81
AD 293
AD 462
Feature 18
870 +/- 60
AD 1036
AD 1160
AD 1260

Feature 21
690 +/- 60
AD 1224
AD 1305
AD 1399

Archaeological plant remains from the Myrtle Point features were limited to wood charcoal (hickory, ash, oak, pine, maple, black walnut, and hackberry), hickory nutshell in Feature 5, black walnut shell in Feature 18, and squash rind from Feature 4.

The squash (Cucurbita sp.) is the only evidence of plant cultivation recovered from the site. Squash may have functioned as a container rather than a food source. Unfortunately, this feature was not radiometrically dated nor associated with any temporally diagnostic artifacts.


Herbert, Joseph M.
1994 Prehistoric Settlement at the Myrtle Point Site (18ST569) and the Structure of Low Density Lithic
Assemblages Along the Lower Patuxent River, Maryland.
JPPM Occasional Papers No. 4.

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