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Relics that live; Archeology: Historic consciousness helped a community unearth a significant cultural site.


FINDING REMNANTS of the largest, and perhaps the only, commercial colonial brickyard on the Eastern seaboard is a testament to the historical consciousness in Anne Arundel County. Few other counties would be able to field a skilled crew to dig, salvage and catalog such a significant find on short notice.

Anne Arundel is rich with historic sites. It is not alone in Maryland in this regard. Witness the discovery last year of the "first Baltimore" on the Bush River in Harford County. Careless development practices could destroy these artifacts and the secrets they harbor.

The brickyard was recently unearthed in large part because Mollie Ridout, the property owner, wanted to ensure she wasn't building on an important site. Ms. Ridout, an official with London Town Publik House and Gardens in Edgewater, had heard her property might be the site of a massive 18th century brickyard built by colonial governor Horatio Sharpe.

Last year, when London Town officials heard that another property owner was going to raze a house to build a luxury residence, they asked if they could dig. They found 17th century structures and artifacts as well as a 12th century Indian settlement. These discoveries add immensely to our understanding of how people lived in colonial and pre-colonial times.

Having a full-time staff archaeologist has been key in to preserving historic sites in Anne Arundel. Not only can the archaeologist deal with preservation issues, he can help salvage materials a contractor might turn up while digging with a backhoe. That can assist, rather than impede, development. County archaeologist Al Luckenbach, 410-222-7441, welcomes calls from residents who may have questions about their property. Rather than being an extravagance, a county archaeologist has been a valuable resource.

Pub Date: 2/17/99

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