My friend Barbara Wendell is just about the most fully-engaged-in-life person I know. She gets up every morning and runs, competes in road races, plays tennis and golf, takes sailing lessons and yoga, gardens madly, and is a volunteer docent at the historic Paca House in Annapolis. At last count she was a member of three book clubs.
And every time we get together, Barbara has found some interesting activity for us to do: observe artists paint in plein air, attend the fiercely competitive U.S. Naval Academy–St. Johns College croquet match, drive to Baltimore to visit the Visionary Art Museum, eat breakfast at an Amish farmer’s market. She crams a lot of living into her days.
Our most recent foray (planned by Barbara, of course) was going to an archeological dig at Historic London Town. The settlement was an important tobacco port in the late 1600’s to early 1700’s. But after the port was moved to Annapolis, London Town virtually disappeared. Its buildings were constructed of wood, and over time they just rotted into the ground.
In the last few years, the remains of the town have been rediscovered. Buildings have been re-created, using the same methods colonial carpenters used. And every now and then, the Lost Towns project of Anne Arundel County, MD, organizes a dig for volunteers.
Wearing heavy work gloves, we stood over a metal mesh tray and dug through heavy dirt which had been unearthed from a nearby trench. We found pottery shards, from both fine white china and rougher red jugs and pitchers. And old handmade nails, bits of ornamented glass, remains of bricks – even a button from the late 1700s. Each time you think you’ve got something real, you signal over to one of the archeologists, and they tell you what it appears to be.
It’s a tiny historical treasure hunt. We also came across a few grubs and locust larvae, and lumps of coal that almost looked like something polished.
Getting my hands dirty at London Town has piqued my interest in other Maryland historical sites. I’m sure Barbara will point me in the right direction.