Unearthed remains might be member of Patuxent Indian tribe Woman's bones believed to date to the 16th century


Archaeologists digging along the Patuxent River in Solomons have found the skeletal remains of an American Indian believed to have lived in the 1500s.

A jawbone with two molars, some bone fragments and a shard of ceramic pottery were found March 13 near the visitors information center at the Naval Recreation Center in Calvert County, northwest of the Thomas Johnson Bridge, according to a Navy spokesman.

Richard Hughes, chief of the office of archaeology for the Maryland Historical Trust, said that the remains have been reburied at the 30-by-30-foot excavation site while Navy officials decide what to do with them.

He said the remains probably belonged to a female believed to be between 25 and 28 years old. Based on the type of burial and the dating of a nearby pottery shard, she was likely a member of the Patuxent tribe that inhabited the region in the 1500s. The Patuxents left no identifiable descendants.

She probably died while the tribe was camped in the area searching for oysters along the shoreline, Hughes said.

The remains were dated by an archaeologist and anthropologist hired as consultants by the Navy, Hughes said.

They also found oyster shells and the ceramic pottery shard near the body that probably were buried at the same time, he said.

If she was Patuxent, she would be one of only two members of the group ever found, Hughes said.

The other was found in 1989 about four miles north of the site near the Jefferson Patterson Historical Park and Museum in St. Leonard, which also lies along the Patuxent River in Calvert County, Hughes said.

The remains were found during a dig performed as a requirement before sand could be excavated from the area for use as a barrier to stabilize a nearby shoreline, according to Navy Lt. David Waterman, a spokesman for the Washington Naval District.

The shoreline is eroding at the rate of about 2 to 3 feet a year, Hughes said.

He said the area is believed to be the site of an 18th-century tobacco farm and that federal agencies are required to conduct such digs before they excavate sites believed to be "historically significant," Hughes said.

Hughes said that Navy officials are scheduled to meet later this week with representatives from his office and the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs to discuss the issue.

He said that Indian groups often prefer artifacts and human remains stay buried where they have been found.

Pub Date: 3/25/98

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