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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Archaeology Site Artifacts Resurface After 20 Years: Addison Plantation, Prince Georges County, Maryland

Manor House Foundation
Back from the vaults (think of the end scene from the first Indiana Jones movie), artifacts recovered from Addison Plantation over 20 years ago by two archaeological teams over several years' investigations are returning to the light of day. According to a Washington Post article, the artifacts -- over 300,000 were collected during excavations -- were mired in a legal dispute between the second archaeology firm and the former site developer for much of this time (see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/29/AR2008072902160_2.html) Now they come to light again, to be displayed at the National Harbor, which displaced the site of the original manor house and its grounds. The original owner, John Addison, was an English merchant who took the risk to move to the colonial frontier of Maryland in his day (along the Potomac River right across from Alexandria) in 1687. The risk paid off and John Addison had himself a large plantation (in time), replacing a wooden original home with a massive brick manor house (12 course thick walls at ground level). He became the first commanding officer of the Prince Georges County Militia, in charge of all the men of fighting age in his area (about ages 16 to 60). He owned a mill so the farmers locally came to him with their grain. He owned a ferry for river crossings. He basically diversified into as many avenues of power and authority as he could.

The artifacts, as the article from 2008 states, reflect Colonel Addison's status. Over 5000 bottles bore the letter A, a personal seal and sign of wealth and over 3000 sherds of fine china, other dishware, and stemware reflected his status. Now, here's a few things the article doesn't mention. Addison had his front lawn structured as a beautiful terrace overlooking the Potomac, complete with brick drains beneath the soil. A massive pile of shattered glass on that lawn suggests a greenhouse once resided there. Along one side of the grounds was a 70 foot deep ravine along the side of which a road ran from the upper grounds down to the floodplains below, taking people and freight to the ferry perhaps. The original wooden house, further removed from the sweeping view of the Potomac became the overseers house (as a planter John Addison was a slave owner). The basement of this house was unusual as it had a walled cellar and a tunnel leading out from one corner of that cellar (no, not a tunnel leading to the Potomac through which Abraham Lincoln could be abducted in the Civil War). This tunnel was filled with gun parts. We came to the conclusion these were militia supplies a commander had to keep so that his troops arms could be maintained. The overseer's house burned (I believe c. 1730 if memory serves) and preserved the metal parts in that side tunnel. For more on this, see: http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/25616062?uid=3739864&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=47699031880927  You can view images from that article of actual flintlock gun lock mechanisms in a Maryland state article: http://www.jefpat.org/CuratorsChoiceArchive/2010CuratorsChoice/Aug2010-FlintlockGunPart.html

Down a well was found many artifacts, including window glass scratched with the initials of an Addison family member back in the day. There's much more, but no time now. If you're interested, let me know and we can continue.

For now, it's nice to know these artifacts have now been preserved by the state. Can anyone tell me if any of them are on display at the National Harbor site? If so, I may need to make a pilgrimage there to see them and reflect.

For additional material on a valuable plantation archaeology site now long gone, see: http://www.jefpat.org/Documents/AddisonReport-Final.pdf and http://www.nvcasv.org/datum/2008aug.pdf

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Most of the foundation in view

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