On a hilltop in Lothian, Maryland, near the Patuxent River and Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary, lies an ancient ceremonial site known as Pig Point. In 2004 the landowner, William Brown, was digging a trench and discovered what is known to archaeologists as midden. Midden is basically a trash dump consisting of ancient waste such as bones, pottery and shells. Midden is not trash to the archaeologist, it is treasure. Five years later, with the blessing of William and Lisa Brown, an organized dig of the area began headed by the Lost Towns Project.

Currently, within a one-mile radius, this project has unearthed copious marvels, including human bones which were confirmed by the teeth found along with them. Evidence of the bones of children and the elderly remain fleeting. The oldest object found in place, a spear point, dates to 10,000 years ago. Clovis points — large projectiles, spearheads, similar to but larger than arrowheads — found atop the ground in the area date to 13,000 years into the past. The name Clovis comes from the town of Clovis, New Mexico, where these points were first unearthed. Evidence of oval Algonquian style wigwams from the 1300s has been found at Pig Point. This evidence dates to 1,000 years before wigwams found in Maryland up until the time of this discovery. Since this initial find, wigwams dating to A.D. 210 have been identified. 

As of 2016, over 700,000 artifacts have been found at Pig Point. Archaeologists, interns and volunteers have dug down at least 7 feet to uncover these precious finds and have discovered objects of significance at almost all depths. Marvels found thus far are copper beads, an intact paint pot found in place where it was fired and never used from the Late Woodland period (A.D. 500 to 1000), stone necklaces, some from the Middle Woodland period (200 B.C. to A.D. 500) known as gorgets, a cup fashioned from a human skull, stone tube pipe fragments of various designs, ceramic pieces with “pie crust” edges, mortar and pestle, and bone tools among many other items. This site could be older than anything located to date in the Chesapeake Bay region.

What exactly was this place Pig Point? The major significances of this archaeological site are the finds from the Native American culture and the Early Archaic Period (about 7,500 to 6,000 B.C.) There are many theories, and most experts believe it was a center of trade for thousands of years where various Indigenous people met and arranged marriages, rested during their travels, held feasts and hunted and gathered provisions, which were abundant. The area is a fully stocked larder of such delicacies as shellfish, finfish such as white and yellow perch, turtles, ducks, geese, deer, rabbits, otter, acorns, hickory nuts and berries. It is possible that peoples from as far away as New York, Ohio and Michigan congregated here. Human bones chopped into pieces of about a few square inches (mostly skulls and leg bones), smashed jewelry and spearheads in the area suggest this place may also have been a ritual and ceremonial site for more than 850 years. This is a major discovery as habitation sites are most often found, but well-preserved ceremonial sites are rarely encountered.

And where did the name Pig Point originate from? In more recent colonial times it was a town. Some have suggested that the name stemmed from the shipping of pig iron from Snowden’s furnace downriver to this spot on the Patuxent River. However, Pig Point received its name in the 1600s as evidenced by maps of the day. Iron furnaces did not exist until the 18th century. Pig Point was also known as Bristol Landing and Leon. As of today, the origin of the name Pig Point is not known.

To date, Pig Point is the most important prehistoric Maryland site unearthed. One can only dream of what future discoveries lay ahead for Pig Point and other Maryland areas.

Barbara enjoys history and is particularly interested in the history of Maryland and can be contacted at barbara.s.aiken@gmail.com

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Barbara enjoys history and is particularly interested in the history of Maryland.