Field Trip: A Day at the MAC Lab

As part of my grad school residency this summer, we had a series of lectures about different aspects of preservation for our Perspectives class. This also meant FIELD TRIP! We headed down to the Maryland Archaeological Conservation (MAC) Lab at the Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum in St. Leonard, Maryland.  Serving as the state’s main research and curation facility, it can handle anything from War of 1812 cannons to Native American petroglyphs.

MACLab main roomThis is Sara Rivers, Federal Collections Curator, who was working on an almost 3000 year old Native American pot from Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in D.C. One of the most complete in the collection, she showed us more info about it and told me “It’s like working on a puzzle. It’s really special to be working on this as they’re pretty rare!”

MACLab Rivers McNair potAfter our tour of the facilities, we spent the rest of the afternoon helping out at the Smith’s St. Leonard site. Richard Smith Jr., a militia captain, built his house–thought to be a rare cruciform shaped building–on this spot in 1711. Later owned by his son Walter, the farm developed into a plantation whose buildings are being excavated and contributing to a fuller picture of the site. Here I am sifting with Deputy Director Ed Chaney and Dr. Patricia Samford, the MAC Lab’s Director…

Ed Patricia Elle at sifterWe found brick, bone, Native American and 18th-century pottery, and lots of oyster shells and tobacco pipe stems. I had what could be best described as the “Worm Juice Incident.” My favorite find was the bottom of a pre-1750s glass bottle. “What I love about archaeology is the window it gives you into lives of people in the past,” said Dr. Samford. “Particularly underrepresented groups such as African Americans, Native Americans, women, children and laborers.”

Elle at MACLab dig with pre1750s glassThe public can tour the facilities and even help out the archaeologists with their research through their Public Archaeology program. And just to show that archaeologists have a twisted sense of humor, they have a zombie in the largest freeze dryer on the East Coast…

MACLab zombie

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