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Digging Up the Ancient Past of Glade Valley

As one drives through and carries on with daily living in Glade Valley, the thought of people living here in ancient times probably does not come to mind.  In fact, few people probably consider how long Glade Valley has been inhabited by people.wpid-wp-1401860766572.jpeg

By the time of European contact, few Native Americans still lived in what is now Frederick County.  The spread of European diseases had already ravaged the populations of people throughout North and South America before anyone in Glade Valley had met a European.  Wars and battles between nations north and south of Glade Valley made the locale a bit uninviting.  As a result, European settlers had few problems with claiming lands.

Of course, that does not mean Glade Valley was not home to Native Americans.  In fact, the Archeological Society of Maryland has been exploring two villages along Glade Creek near the Monocacy River for decades.

Dig sites in corn field along Biggs Ford Road
Dig sites in corn field along Biggs Ford Road

GladeValley.net met up with the team on location in the Crum Family’s farm field along Biggs Ford Road to see what exactly they’re finding.  Professor Richard “Joe” Dent of the Department of Anthropology at American University, graciously hosted our visit and provided insight.

Archaeologists making a discovery.
Archaeologists making a discovery.

The 2014 Field Session at Biggs Ford represents the third on this site.  The site  offers a unique opportunity to study two different communities who lived in the same area during the Late Woodland Period.

The community known as the Montgomery Complex built and lived in the earlier village between 1000 A.D. and 1250 A.D.  Their village was smaller based upon the layout of the palisade (a wall or fence of timber surrounding the village).

Outlining a post of the later village's palisade.
Outlining a post of the later village’s palisade.

The later community known as the Keyser Complex built and lived in a village that overlaps the earlier village.  They occupied Glade Valley from 1300 A.D. to 1500 A.D.  Their village was larger based upon the palisade arcs of their village.

These pits have yielded charcoal, animal bones, corn kernels, and more.
These pits have yielded charcoal, animal bones, corn kernels, and more.

Both villages offer archaeologists a plethora of information and evidence through the remains of their food, fires, homes, palisades, burials and pits.  Pieces of pottery and tools made from quartz were some of the finds during our brief visit.

Mills Custom Wood Floors

A piece of pottery.
A piece of pottery.

The two different groups can be distinguished by their tools and pottery.  The Montgomery tempered their pottery with crushed quartz.  The Keyser pottery was tempered with shell.  One archaeologist explained the differences in the pottery found while we were on location.  The level of detail and the features were easily glanced over until her description.

The field session in Glade Valley may provide a better understanding of the people by using newer and better carbon dating on some of the artifacts.  They will not be removing or even disturbing any of the human remains that are found.

Carefully searching.
Carefully searching.

Researchers hope to find the remains of homes within the palisades to better understand the structures of residences build during this time period and in this area.  A best case scenario would be to find homes in each of the separate villages for comparison.

The proximity of the two villages allows anthropologists such as Professor Dent to compare the living arrangements, the economies, the community structures, tools, pottery, and the social relationships between the two groups.

A cutting tool used by Glade Valley residents 1000 years ago.
A cutting tool used by Glade Valley residents 1000 years ago.

These two villages represent one of only a few large Native American villages found along the Monocacy River.  Biggs Ford’s site is the only known to have both a Montgomery and Keyser village within the entire Potomac River area.

As we dusted off and headed back to our truck, we came away from the experience with a greater appreciation of how long Glade Valley has provided for people. Its amazing to imagine the farm fields being tree filled forests and home to such amazing people to survive the elements of their era.

Taking a break.
Taking a break.
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