The Nassawango Creek Site, 18WO23, is a multi-component prehistoric site in Worcester County, Maryland. Located on a sandy ridge, Nassawango contains cultural deposits dating from the Paleoindian through the Late Woodland Periods, including several Adena burials. The Nassawango Creek Site is one of just a handful of Adena burial sites in the Chesapeake region that have been professionally excavated. Red ochre, copper beads, and other metal and stone ornaments accompanied the burials. One feature appears to have been used to process red ochre from local bog iron. This collection is important for understanding cross-continental trade between the Adena core along the Ohio River and outlying sites in the Chesapeake region.

Archaeological Investigations

Nassawango was discovered in March 1973 when two amateur archaeologists stopped to investigate a newly bulldozed section of land on Nassawango Creek, a tributary of the Pocomoke River. In April 1973, the Lower Delmarva Chapter of the Archeological Society of Maryland began excavations at the site. The investigation revealed the presence of at least two burials, other prehistoric features, and copper beads. The Maryland Geological Survey agreed to pay for three weeks of excavation if the Lower Delmarva Chapter would provide volunteer labor and pay for the fourth week of excavation. The Delaware Section of Archaeology also agreed to provide storage space and room for analysis. Cara Wise served as the excavation director, with Faye Stocum as her assistant. Investigations occurred between July 17, 1973 and August 4, 1973. John Sprinkle, Sr. conducted additional fieldwork in 1974.

A total of 31 two-by-two-meter units were opened and excavated to a depth of at least 30cm. Seventeen cultural features, including four burials pits, five hearths, one red ochre processing pit, and seven unidentified features, were located and excavated. All soil was screened through 1/8-inch, 1/4-inch, or 3/8-inch mesh, and some soil samples were collected from features. The extremely sandy nature of the soil at Nassawango caused excavators to dig natural soil layers and features concurrently. It also impeded the detection of features through color differentiation, the chemical analyses of soils, and the ability to pedestal artifacts.


A total of 18,091 artifacts were recovered from the Nassawango Creek Site from features, subsurface levels, and the surface. Artifacts represent various short-term occupations, from Paleoindian Clovis, unidentified Middle and Late Archaic, Early Woodland Adena, Middle Woodland Web and Selby Bay, and Late Woodland Slaughter Creek phases.

Lithic artifacts included 5,864 examples of debitage and unifacial, bifacial, and groundstone tools. One hundred and twenty-five projectile points were uncovered, including two Clovis, one Morrow Mountain, one Piscataway, one Brewerton, one Lamoka, one Susquehanna Broadspear, three other broadspears, four Rossville, six Selby Bay, eight Levanna, three Madison, and seven Potomac. Non-flaked stone tools include two nutting stones, two hammerstones, one netsinker, one gouge, and one grooved axe fragment, while flaked stone tools consist of 52 bifaces, five drills, three scrapers, and two gravers. Two steatite vessel fragments with holes, and two decorated and two undecorated tobacco pipe fragments, were also recovered.

A total of 4,840 ceramics were recovered from all phases of the Woodland Period at Nassawango, including examples of 88 Dames Quarter, 18 Accokeek, 80 Wolfe Neck, 12 Coulbourn, 831 Mockley, and 1293 Townsend Series sherds. Ceramics recovered at Nassawango exhibit cord-marked, smoothed, net-impressed, fabric-impressed, and smoothed over cord-marked surface treatments, occasionally on both interior and exterior surfaces. Decorative motifs include linear and geometric designs using both incising and punctating on rims and exterior surfaces.

Artifacts associated with the Adena culture typically date between 200 BC and 200 AD on the Delmarva Peninsula, but radiocarbon dates from Nassawango indicate an earlier occupation ranging between 500 BC and 240 BC. Associated material from the Adena Phase includes 1,987 tubular and round copper beads found both individually and within strands. Other copper objects include one pendant, possibly associated with a strand of copper beads, and one paint cup. A scrap of fabric was also preserved as a result of salt from the copper beads. Adena lithic artifacts include 388 red ochre fragments, five drills, and one broken banded slate pendant. Access to the funerary artifacts is restricted due to their sensitive nature, and photographs are not available.


The document collection consists of original records in good condition, with some discoloration and staining from exposure in the field. The records are housed in two archival letter-sized clamshell boxes.

The excavation records are organized by units identified by their datum coordinates. Datum points vary with respect to orientation. Therefore, physical and electronic organization has been designed around this, with units subdivided into respective categories: NW; NE; SW; SE. Excavation records include unit records, unit summaries, plan drawings, profile drawings, and feature forms. Feature records are included with the unit records in which they were identified.

Other documents include catalog sheets, artifact analyses, human remains analysis, site maps, and miscellaneous notes and reference materials. These have been scanned as .PDF files and will not be searchable. Field notes have been treated the same way. There is no report.

Photographs taken on-site or in post-processing are available through the online database, and are searchable using the above criteria. Researchers should note that images are not linked directly to specific documents, and photograph records do not necessarily exist for all features or units. Original images consist of slides and prints and are housed at the MAC Lab.


Bastian, Tyler
1975     New Radiocarbon Dates for a Maryland Adena Site. Newsletter of the Archeological Society of Maryland 1(2):6.
1976     Correction on New Radiocarbon Dates for a Maryland Adena Site. Newsletter of the Archeological Society of Maryland 2(1):5.
Ford, T. Latimer, Jr.
1976     Adena Sites on Chesapeake Bay. Archaeology of Eastern North America 4:63-89.
Wise, Cara L.
n.d.     The Nassawango Creek Site, Worcester County, Maryland: Sand Dune Archaeology. Paper for Dr. Foss. Located in the Nassawango Creek Archives at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory.
1973a     18WO23 Nassawango Creek Site Summary Report. Located in the Nassawango Creek Archives at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory.
1973b     The Nassawango Adena Site. Bulletin of the Eastern States Archeological Federation. (33):15.

Digital Resources



Archaeological Report
Artifact Documents
Excavation Documents
Field Notes
  • Notes (7 pages, 4.48 MB)
Specialized Analysis

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