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3000 Years of Human Subsistence and Estuarine Resource Exploitation on the Rhode River Estuary, Chesapeake Bay, Maryland
Torben C. Rick, Leslie A. Reeder-Myers, Michael J. Carr, and Anson H. Hines

Journal of the North Atlantic, Special Volume 10 (2017): 113–125

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Journal of the North Atlantic T.C. Rick, L.A. Reeder-Myers, M.J. Carr, and A.H. Hines 2017 Special Volume 10 113 Introduction Marine foods, including a variety of shellfish, finfish, mammals, and birds, were an important part of Native North American human diets throughout history. Along North America’s Atlantic Coast, a series of estuaries, bays, and tidal marshes, along with the extensive outer coast, provided access to a diverse array of wildlife that was often a focus of human subsistence (Bernstein 1993, 2006; Bourque 1995; Custer 1988; Thompson and Worth 2011). With scores of estuaries flanking the Middle Atlantic Coast, estuarine foods were of particular importance for ancient peoples who lived on the many subestuaries, rivers, and creeks of the Chesapeake Bay (Barber 2008, Custer 1988, Dent 1995, Gallivan 2016, Miller 2001). Native Americans and later Euro-American colonists, hunted, fished, and gathered a wide variety of organisms from the Chesapeake and its many subestuaries. Eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) were particularly important and are often found in extremely high abundance in the numerous shell middens located throughout the bay’s shoreline. A number of projects have helped build a framework for understanding Chesapeake Bay coastal resource exploitation, especially through the excavation of shell middens (Custer 1988; Custer et al. 1997; Gallivan 2016; Gibb and Hines 1997; Herbert 1995; Holmes 1907; Lowery 2005; Monroe and Goodrich 2012; Potter 1982, 1993; Reeder-Myers et al. 2016; Rick et al. 2011, 2015a; Walker 2003; Waselkov 1982). Most of these studies have confirmed that these middens are generally dominated by eastern oysters, with some middens, particularly during the Middle (500 BC–AD 900, 2500–1100 BP) and Late (AD 900–1600, 1100–400 BP) Woodland, containing few shellfish taxa other than oysters (Custer 1988, 1989; Potter 1982; Rick et al. 2015a; Waselkov 1982). These sites stand in contrast to some Early Woodland (1200–500 BC, 3200–2500 BP) and Late Archaic (4800–1200 BC, 6800–3200 BP) middens that contain a richer assemblage of shellfish, though oysters are still generally the most abundant species. Our chronology-building work (Rick et al. 2014) and research at 7 Rhode River sites supports a trend noted by Steponaitis (1983) for the Patuxent River that suggested an increase in middens during the Early Woodland and later. Despite extensive 14C dating, we have not yet documented a shell midden older than 18AN308 (1250–800 BC), which could be due to the inundation of older sites by rising sea levels or could suggest that this part of the Chesapeake did not yet support extensive oyster beds that would make human exploitation feasible. In this paper, we present the analysis of shellfish and vertebrate faunal remains from 7 shell middens excavated at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) on the Rhode River, a subestuary of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland (Fig. 1). We build on previous shell midden research in the Rhode River area at a Middle Woodland site (18AN284/285; Gibb and Hines 1997), as well as our previous efforts to establish a chronology for shell middens 3000 Years of Human Subsistence and Estuarine Resource Exploitation on the Rhode River Estuary, Chesapeake Bay, Maryland Torben C. Rick1,*, Leslie A. Reeder-Myers1, Michael J. Carr1, and Anson H. Hines2 Abstract - Chesapeake Bay is home to highly productive marine ecosystems that were a key part of Native American subsistence for millennia. Despite a number of archaeological projects focused on Chesapeake Bay prehistory, key questions remain about the nature of human use of the estuary through time and across space. Recent work at 7 shell middens on the Rhode River Estuary, MD, provides insight into human subsistence and estuarine res ource exploitation from ~3200 years ago through the mid-19th century. This is an important diachronic sequence of coastal land use and subsistence for the Chesapeake and helps fill a gap in our understanding of coastal adaptations along North America’s Atlantic Coast. Despite climate change, fluctuating sea levels, and the likely appearance of maize agriculture in the area ~1000 years ago, Native American exploitation of oysters and estuarine resources remained fairly consistent across the Early to Late Woodland. These data stand in contrast to the mid-1800s assemblage, which was likely deposited by 19th-century Euro-Americans and contains overall larger oysters perhaps obtained from deeper waters that may not have been a focus of Native American harvest. When placed in the context of other regional data, our analysis illustrates the value of shell middens for helping understand human subsistence strategies and the historical ecol ogy of the North American Atlantic Coast. North American East Coast Shell Midden Research Journal of the North Atlantic 1Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC 20560. 2Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Edgewater, MD 21037. *Corresponding author - rickt@si.edu. 2017 Special Volume 10:113–125 Journal of the North Atlantic T.C. Rick, L.A. Reeder-Myers, M.J. Carr, and A.H. Hines 2017 Special Volume 10 114 throughout the watershed (Rick et al. 2014). This study is part of our broader research program focused on shell middens and other sites throughout the Chesapeake region to better understand ancient human environmental interactions and historical ecology. The 7 Rhode River middens discussed here date from the Early Woodland (~3200 years ago) through the 19th century (~100 years ago), comprising mostly Native American middens but also 2 sites that were occupied by later Historic period peoples. These data provide a means to understand late Holocene human subsistence strategies and human environmental interactions across the bay and to test previous hypotheses about greater faunal richness in Early Woodland shell middens compared to later times. Background and Context The streams, rivers, and creeks that flow into Chesapeake Bay come from a massive watershed that is ~166,000 km2. This watershed and the nature of the regional topography make Chesapeake Bay the largest estuary in the continental United States, covering some 300 km from north to south and between 6 and 60 km from east to west. The modern Chesapeake Bay formed during the Holocene and is the latest iteration of many bays that formed in the region during previous interglacial periods that drowned the lower reaches of the Susquehanna River Valley (Bratton et al. 2003). SERC is located on ~11 km2 of land surrounding the Rhode River, MD. The Rhode River forms a Chesapeake Bay sub-estuary about 130 km from the bay’s mouth. The Rhode River contains several smaller creeks and tidal embayments that feed into the larger system, including Boathouse Creek, Muddy Creek, and Sellman Creek. This region is in the lower mesohaline zone, where salinities are lower and generally more variable than areas closer to the mouth. The area contains a variety of terrestrial and Figure 1. Location of the Chesapeake Bay and the study area in the Rhode River estuary. All dots represent sites that were radiocarbon dated, while red dots indicate sites included in the faunal analysis reported here. Although the paleogeography of the Rhode River estuary cannot be precisely reconstructed, the 3-m and 7.5-m bathymetric lines show how the shape of the estuary may have changed through time. Journal of the North Atlantic T.C. Rick, L.A. Reeder-Myers, M.J. Carr, and A.H. Hines 2017 Special Volume 10 115 aquatic habitats providing access to estuarine and terrestrial resources, including a variety of plant (hazelnut, wild blueberry, tubers) and animal (deer, oysters, blue crabs, fish) resources. These and other factors attracted Native Americans to the region since at least the terminal Pleistocene, with numerous sites dating to the Archaic and Woodland periods (Ballwebber 1990; Cox et al. 2007a, 2007b; Gibb and Hines 1997; Rick et al. 2014). Historically, the area was used for timber harvesting, agricultural and grazing lands, residential housing, and scientific research and restoration in forest and other ecosystems. The first known human use of coastal resources in the Rhode River occurred ~3200 years ago when sea level in Chesapeake Bay was about 7.5 m below modern mean sea level (MSL) (Engelhart and Horton 2012, Engelhart et al. 2011). Today the mouth of the Rhode River subestuary is about 5 m deep (Fig. 1). It is unlikely that the subestuary had developed by the Early Woodland occupation, although it is not known how much sediment has accumulated in the Rhode River during historic times and the precise timing of estuarine development is unclear. Archaeological research at SERC during the last 45 years has documented dozens of archaeological sites, including numerous shell middens (Ballwebber 1990; Cox 2007a; Gibb and Hines 1997; Sperling 2008; Wilke and Thompson 1977; Wright 1968, 1969, 1973, 1975). Some of the property’s colonial and historical sites have been excavated (see Cox 2007a), but only a few of SERC’s prehistoric shell middens have been studied (Wright 1968, 1969), and quantified prehistoric faunal data are available only from 18AN284/285, which contains Middle (500 BC–AD 900) and Late (AD 900–1500) Woodland deposits (Gibb and Hines 1997). Based on the chronology reported by Rick et al. (2014), 61 archaeological sites in the Rhode River and adjacent watersheds have confirmed prehistoric components. Fifty of these contain shell middens, and the other sites include lithic scatters and procurement sites. The chronology of these sites spans the Woodland period, from the Early Woodland (3200 years ago) through the Middle and Late Woodland and into the mid-19th century. Building on this chronology, we report on the faunal remains from 7 archaeological sites that cover much of the known Rhode River archaeological chronology for shell middens. Most of these sites, especially shell middens, are highly vulnerable to erosion from sea-level rise, making them a priority for research. Field and Laboratory Methods We excavated 7 shell middens (18AN225, 18AN285, 18AN286, 18AN287, 18AN308, 18AN839, and 18AN1323) located in different parts of the watershed (Fig. 1). These sites were chosen based on their location, preservation, and chronology, with the goal being to provide a diachronic and representative sequence of the shell middens in the area. Test units (generally 1 m x 1 m or 1 m x 2 m) at each of these sites were designed to provide representative samples of the midden deposits, especially shellfish and faunal remains, as well as ceramic, stone, and other artifacts. These sites generally lacked clear stratigraphy and were excavated in arbitrary 10-cm levels. After excavating our larger test units, 25 cm x 25 cm column samples were excavated in the unit sidewalls at each of the sites. All test unit sediments were poured over 0.635- cm (¼-inch) mesh, with left oyster valves, vertebrate faunal remains, and artifacts retained for analysis. For the column samples, the residuals were poured over 0.318-cm (1/8-inch) or 0.159-cm (1/16-inch) mesh, with all residuals retained for analysis. Bulk soil samples and materials for radiocarbon dating were also collected in situ from the unit sidewalls. Both 18AN226 and 18AN839 were waterlogged deposits with difficult excavation conditions. Consequently, for both of these sites we obtained bulk samples, each from a ~25-cm-diameter area, with all materials poured over 0.318-cm (1/8-inch) mesh. Table 1 provides a summary of the size of each site, number and volume of excavated samples, and other vital statistics for the excavation of each shell midden based on data presented in Rick et al. (2014) and herein. All of the sites, except the historic shell middens at 18AN839 and 18AN1323, were mapped using a Topcon laser total station (Figs. 2–5). We also excavated 4-inch auger holes and 25-cm shovel test pits to help determine site boundaries and the nature of site deposits. Our maps and site boundaries differ slightly from previous recorded site sizes and research. After excavation, all materials were returned to the National Museum of Natural History’s Department of Anthropology for analysis. The analysis of oyster size from test units, column samples, and bulk samples is reported in the context of a large study of Chesapeake Bay oyster size from ancient to modern times (Rick et al. 2016). Here we examine the entire faunal assemblage recovered from 0.318-cm (1/8-inch) and larger residuals in the column and bulk samples (Table 1). Vertebrate faunal remains were less abundant than shellfish, and consequently we also report on vertebrate remains Journal of the North Atlantic T.C. Rick, L.A. Reeder-Myers, M.J. Carr, and A.H. Hines 2017 Special Volume 10 116 identified in the 0.635-cm (¼-inch) and larger residuals of our test units. Where possible, faunal remains were identified to genus or species using comparative collections at the National Museum of Natural History, including materials from the Divisions of Mammals and Reptiles/Amphibians, and the Department of Invertebrate Zoology. Because of fragmentation and poor preservation, we were unable to determine the species of mussels present in the assemblage. These fragments may come from either hooked (Ischadium recurvum) or ribbed (Geukensia demissa) mussels. Similarly, we identified both Mya arenaria (softshell clam) and Tagelus plebius (stout tagelus) hinges in the deposits, but fragments without a hinge were equivocal and identified as undifferentiated clam. For vertebrate faunal remains, we followed similar protocols including undifferentiated bone, mammal, and fish categories for specimens that were small and lacked diagnostic features. After identification, all faunal materials were weighed in grams. We calculated minimum number of individuals (MNI) for all shellfish and vertebrate faunal remains based on a count of non-repetitive elements, usually sided long bones for vertebrates and sided hinges or spires for shellfish. Number of identified specimens (NISP) or counts were also obtained for vertebrate faunal remains, but because of the high degree of fragmentation and massive quantities, counts were not obtained for shellfish. Archaeologists have long struggled with finding appropriate ways to compare quantified archaeological shellfish and Table 1. Brief description, site size, 14C dated components, and total excavated volume from seven shell middens. Site size estimates and data obtained from site data forms on file at the Maryland Historical Trust, Crownsville, MD, with some site depths based on more recent assessments. 14C dated time periods: EW = Early Woodland, MW = Middle Woodland, LW = Late Woodland, and H = Colonial or Historic period. 14C dated Total Site Brief description Area (m2) component(s) volume (L) 18AN226 Woodland era shell midden with plow zone and less than 20–30 cm deep. 3782 LW 50 Excavated two 50-L bulk samples. 18AN285 A large multicomponent shell midden. We tested areas in the southern/eastern 14,400 LW, MW 550 margins. Excavated a 1 m x 1 m test unit and 25 cm x 25 cm column sample. 18AN286 Shell midden located on creek bank on surface and buried 1 m de ep. 288 LW, MW 584 Excavated a 1 m x 2 m test unit, 25 cm x 25 cm column sample, a nd a 35-L bulk sample in a deeply buried midden in the creek exposure. 18AN287 Shell midden located on creek bank buried under 50 cm of sedime nt. 270 LW 511 Excavated two 1 m x 1 m units and two 25 cm x 25 cm column samp les. 18AN308 Shell midden located on edge of creek. Exavated 1 m x 2 m test unit and 25 cm 1365 EW 738 x 25 cm column sample. 18AN839 Shell midden on edge of creek. Excavated 20-L bulk sample. 3233 H 15 18AN1323 Shell midden located on edge of creek. Excavated 25 cm x 25 cm column sample. 27 H 59 Figure 2. Picture of 18AN226 from the water looking east and a map of the site. Journal of the North Atlantic T.C. Rick, L.A. Reeder-Myers, M.J. Carr, and A.H. Hines 2017 Special Volume 10 117 vertebrate faunal remains (see Spiess and Lewis 2001 for a review of the topic), a challenge we also faced in our study. Consequently, we generally compare shellfish to each other and vertebrates to each other with limited comparison between these classes. Shellfish vastly outnumber vertebrate faunal remains, but we caution that a single deer or large fish can provide far more meat than individual shellfish. Finally, we also measured the height in mm for all whole oyster shells (see Rick et al. 2016). Our previous study of oysters from sites in the Rhode River and elsewhere in the Chesapeake did not include juvenile oysters smaller than 35 mm in height to make these data more comparable to modern and fossil assemblages. Here we include all oyster sizes including specimens smaller than 35 mm. We note that the inclusion of these data had little effect on our average sizes or previous interpretations (Rick et al. 2016). Radiocarbon Dating and Site Chronologies Rick et al. (2014) reported on the chronology of shell middens in the Rhode River watershed and provided details on dating procedures, correction, calibration, and interpretation. Here, we focus on the chronologies for the 7 sites (Table 2). All of the samples were removed from excavated contexts in stratigraphic position in unit sidewalls after excavation. Figure 3. Photo of field work at 18AN286 and site map for 18AN28 6 and 18AN285. Site 285 excludes an area that is cur - rently developed and previously excavated by Gibb and Hines (19 97). Figure 4. Photo of Fieldwork at 18AN287 and site map. The deposits appear to be considerably smaller than when the site was originally recorded, which could be from erosion, overestim ation of the original site size, or a combination. Journal of the North Atlantic T.C. Rick, L.A. Reeder-Myers, M.J. Carr, and A.H. Hines 2017 Special Volume 10 118 Figure 5. Photo of fieldwork at 18AN308 and map of site and exca vations. Table 2. Radiocarbon data from seven shell middens on the Rhode River Estuary, MD. Provenience: c.s. = column sample, cmbs = cm below surface , cmbd = cm below datum. Material: C.v.= Crassostrea virginica. C.v. t.= Crassostrea virginica shell temper. Char = charcoal. All dates calibrated using OxCal 4.2 (Bronk Ramsey, 2009, 2013; Reimer et al., 2013) and applying a standard ΔR of 97 ± 18 years for all marine shells. 18AN285 listed here is from recent work by Rick on the far southern edge of the site not tested by Gibb and Hines (1997). All samples were analyzed by the National Ocean Sciences AMS Facility. Site Provenience Material Lab # (OS-) δ13C 14C age Calibrated age (AD/BC, 2σ) 18AN226 Bulk sample 1, ~20 cmbs C.v. 90147 -3.76 1030 ± 40 AD 1330–1480 Bulk sample 2, ~20 cmbs C.v. 90143 -3.57 1100 ± 30 AD 1300–1430 Probe, 32–34 cmbs base of midden C.v. 84252 -5.07 1180 ± 20 AD 1250–1390 18AN285 Unit 1 c.s., 41–44 cmbs C.v. 90323 -3.67 910 ± 30 AD 1440–1590 Unit 1 c.s., 5 cmbs C.v. 90153 -3.27 930 ± 25 AD 1430–1540 Unit 1 c.s., 70–71 cmbs C.v. 90145 -3.56 1890 ± 25 AD 550–680 Aug 3 C.v. 90148 -3.66 2210 ± 25 AD 150–360 18AN286 Unit 1 c.s., 30 cmbs C.v. 90154 -3.91 950 ± 25 AD 1430–1520 Unit 1, Level 4 C.v. t. 92581 -5.03 950 ± 25 AD 1430–1520 25 cm, base of deep exposure C.v. 90146 -3.54 1000 ± 35 AD 1350–1500 Unit 1, Level 4 C.v. t. 92433 -3.83 1040 ± 25 AD 1340–1470 Creek exposure, 25 cmbs C.v. 86708 -3.19 2020 ± 25 AD 400–570 18AN287 Unit 2, 66 cmbs C.v. 90141 -3.4 985 ± 25 AD 1400–1500 Unit 1, 55–58 cmbd C.v. 90144 -4.22 990 ± 30 AD 1360–1510 20 cmbs in creek exposure C.v. 86704 -3.86 1110 ± 25 AD 1300–1420 Unit 1, 65 cmbd C.v. 90142 -4.1 1120 ± 30 AD 1290–1420 Unit 1 South, Level 1 C.v. t. 92432 -4.91 1390 ± 25 AD 1040–1200 Unit 1 South, Level 1 C.v. t. 92908 -4.54 1510 ± 45 AD 860–1110 18AN308 Unit 1, 35 cmbd, pair 1 Char 98286 -25.65 2760 ± 20 970–840 BC Unit 2, 31 cmbd, pair 2 Char 98285 -24.81 2900 ± 20 1190–1010 BC C.S. 1, 42–43 cmbd, bottom of deposit C.v. 98202 -2.81 3150 ± 20 950–800 BC Unit 1, 35 cmbd, pair 1 C.v. 98206 -3.17 3210 ± 20 1030–840 BC Unit 2, 31 cmbd, pair 2 C.v. 98207 -3.96 3230 ± 20 1060–870 BC 20 cmbs in creek exposure C.v. 92427 -3.54 3240 ± 25 1090–880 BC STP2, 33 cmbs C.v. 98204 -1.83 3250 ± 20 1090–890 BC C.S. 1, 16-18 cmbd, top of deposit C.v. 98203 -3.74 3250 ± 20 1090–890 BC Creek bed exposure, in situ C.v. 90320 -2.23 3360 ± 30 1250–1020 BC 18AN839 Eroding exposure, 10 cmbs C.v. 90150 -3.53 510 ± 25 AD 1840–modern Bulk sample 1, 12–14 cmbs C.v. 98205 -5.03 605 ± 25 AD 1710–modern 18AN1323 Base of unit 69–70 cmbs C.v 84217 -3.98 465 ± 30 AD 1850–modern Top of Unit, 10–13 cmbs C.v. 84216 -4.97 550 ± 25 AD 1770–modern Journal of the North Atlantic T.C. Rick, L.A. Reeder-Myers, M.J. Carr, and A.H. Hines 2017 Special Volume 10 119 mented in 7 samples from 18AN287. The earliest dates from 18AN287 were on shell temper from pottery, which were slightly older than the oysters we dated from the site and may derive from the use of older oysters as shell temper (Rick and Lowery 2013). The midden deposits at 18AN287, however, likely date to ca. AD 1290–1510. A small bulk sample from 18AN839 appears to date primarily to the 18th century, although a date from another area of the site dated to the 19th century, but we suspect this may be primarily a small, badly eroded mid- to late-18th-century shell midden. Finally, historic nails and 2 radiocarbon dates indicate a mid- to late-19thcentury occupation for 18AN1323. Collectively, the radiocarbon dates from these sites indicate that we have acquired a large sample of Early Woodland faunal remains from 18AN308; a small Middle Woodland assemblage from 18AN285; large Late Woodland assemblages from 18AN226, 18AN286, and 18AN287; and moderate assemblages from Historic period samples from the 18th and 19th centuries at 18AN839 and 18AN1323 (Table 1). Shell Middens and Human Subsistence on the Rhode River Based on our field and laboratory work at the 7 sites, we found that the 7 shell middens are all relatively well-preserved and dominated by the remains of eastern oysters. Five of the shell middens (18AN226, 188AN286, 18AN287, 18AN839, and 18AN308) contain relatively thin midden deposits that are less than about 25 cm thick and appear to be from relatively short-term occupations (a few centuries or less). As noted on our site maps and in Table 1, these 5 sites do not cover very large areas, with all of these sites less than about 3800 m2. 18AN285 is unique for the large area that it covers (>14,000 m2), with our work focusing on a dif ferent part of the site than Gibb and Hines (1997). This site also contains one of the longest occupations for the shell middens we studied, covering both the Middle and Late Woodland. The deposits in Unit 1 at 18AN285 were relatively well preserved except for a ~20-cm plow zone in the upper portion of the deposits. The lack of clear stratigraphy at 18AN285 also made it difficult to determine the depth at which the Middle Woodland occupation ended and the Late Woodland occupation began. Based on our observations and radiocarbon dating, we argue that only the deepest deposits date to the Middle Woodland, and in previous analyses we were careful to eliminate some of the middle levels because of possible mixing (Rick et al. 2016). 18AN1323, the Eastern oysters from each site were radiocarbon dated because these samples have proven to be suitable for dating in the Chesapeake and elsewhere along the Atlantic Coast where reliable reservoir corrections (ΔR) have been established (Rick et al. 2012, Thomas 2008, Thomas et al. 2013). Nonetheless, as with any material used for radiocarbon dating, there are potential challenges in dating marine shell, including reservoir corrections (ΔR), 13C/12C isotopic fractionation, and other factors. We have taken care in our analysis to account for these variables as best as possible and believe we have built the most accurate chronologies for the sites possible. Although recent studies suggest that the Chesapeake and other Atlantic estuaries have more limited intra-shell variability than specimens from the Pacific Coast with strong marine upwelling (Rick and Henkes 2014, Thomas et al. 2013), we obtained oversized (~7–10 mm) oyster fragments near the ligament area that crossed over multiple growth bands to minimize these problems. All of our samples were sent to the National Ocean Sciences AMS (NOSAMS) Facility at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for analysis. Details of the radiocarbon dating procedure can be found at http://www.whoi.edu/nosams. All of the radiocarbon dates on shellfish obtained in this study were calibrated using the OxCal 4.2 calibration program (Bronk Ramsey 2009, 2013) and the Marine13 calibration curve (Reimer et al. 2013) with a ΔR of 97 ± 18. This procedure is based on corrections from the Rhode River area (Rick et al. 2014). Charcoal samples from 18AN308 were calibrated using the Intcal13 calibration curve (Reimer et al. 2013). Thirty-one 14C dates from the 7 sites document occupation spanning the Early Woodland to mid- 19th century. 18AN308 is the oldest of the sites with 9 calibrated radiocarbon dates suggesting an occupation from 1250 to 840 cal BC, entirely within the Early Woodland. 18AN285 contains multiple components that span the Middle to Late Woodland between cal AD 550 and 1590, with a slightly earlier component dated to ca. AD 150–360 identified in an auger on the northern site boundary and not represented in our faunal samples from Unit 1. Most of the deposits included in this study date to the Late Woodland, including 18AN226, 18AN286, and 18AN287. At 18AN226, three dates document a sequence from cal AD 1250 to 1480. At 18AN286, four dates document an occupation between about cal AD 1340 and 1520, with an earlier date obtained in a creek exposure that suggests the site may also have a Middle Woodland component. A slightly longer sequence from cal AD 860 to 1510 was docuJournal of the North Atlantic T.C. Rick, L.A. Reeder-Myers, M.J. Carr, and A.H. Hines 2017 Special Volume 10 120 19th-century site we excavated, was unique in that it covers a small area of less than 30 m2, but it had dense and thick midden deposits that extended some 70 cm below the surface. All of the sites are located along the shoreline, with 18AN226, 18AN839, and 18AN1323 partially submerged at high tide. The archaeological faunal data from the 7 Rhode River shell middens show remarkable consistency in the types of shellfish that were exploited across time and through space. Oysters dominate all assemblages, making up 96 to 100 percent of the weight and 56 to 100 percent of the MNI of all shellfish (Table 3). Clearly, most of the assemblages reflect a focus on harvesting oysters, and many of these sites were likely specialized oyster-processing localities. Besides oysters, the other shellfish are generally small, undifferentiated mussels and barnacles that were likely deposited incidentally in the site when harvesting oysters. Stout tagelus and softshell clams were both identified in low quantities but were likely eaten by people and are most common at 18AN308 and, to an extent, at 18AN285 and 18AN287. Land snails are found in low abundance throughout the deposits and were likely deposited naturally rather than as part of the human diet. One unique taxa identified only in the 18AN1323 historical assemblage is Mytilopsis leucophaeta (dark falsemussel) that often live on oysters (Kennedy 2011a). At 18AN308, we also recovered a few hard clam (Mercenaria mercenaria) shells in our units but not in the bulk samples. Hard clams require much higher salinities (>25 ppt) than are known to have occurred in the Rhode River and were likely traded or transported from higher salinity areas of the bay. Vertebrate remains are relatively rare in the midden assemblages. Despite the generally small numbers of diagnostic bone fragments, we identified white -tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), raccoon (Procyon lotor), longnose gar (Lepisosteus osseus), turtle, and beaver (Castor canadensis), and moderate amounts of undifferentiated fish and mammal bones (Table 4). Deer and raccoon were the most common vertebrates. Although these vertebrate remains are found in lower abundance than shellfish remains, as noted earlier a single deer can produce far more meat than dozens of oysters. Rick et al. (2016) reported on oyster size changes from archaeological sites throughout the Chesapeake Bay as part of a larger analysis of Chesapeake oyster historical ecology from the Pleistocene to modern times. Table 5 presents the average sizes, specimen counts, and standard deviations for the sites discussed here. Because of small sample size, 18AN839 was excluded from our analysis. These data show relatively consistent sizes across the prehistoric samples. However, we note that oysters in Table 3. Summary of shellfish data from seven Rhode River shell middens. Note: Only oyster shell was recovered from the 18AN839 bulk sample, with 2705.3 grams from 50 individuals, and it was excluded from analysis due to small sample size. Note: for 18AN285 column sample 1, the undifferentiated clam fragments found are likely stout tagelus, and thus have been included in the MNI count and percentage for that sample. 18AN226 bulk 1 and 2 18AN285 column sample 1 18AN286 column/bulk sample Taxon Wt. (g) % wt. MNI % MNI Wt. (g) % wt. MNI % MNI WT. (g) % wt. MNI. %MNI Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) 20,707.2 99.9 840 98.6 22,815.3 99.7 571 85.7 19,051.8 99.9 568 95.9 Stout tagelus (Tagelus plebeius) - - - - 27.9 0.1 8 1.2 - - - - Undifferentiated clam 0.5 less than 0.1 1 0.1 22.9 0.1 0.0 - - - - Land snail 1.4 less than 0.1 10 1.2 8.7 less than 0.1 85 12.8 1.4 less than 0.1 15 2.5 Barnacle 0.8 less than 0.1 1 0.1 1.6 less than 0.1 1 0.2 0.1 less than 0.1 1 less than 0.1 Undifferentiated mussel - - - - 0.4 less than 0.1 1 0.2 0.5 less than 0.1 5 0.8 Misc. gastropods - - - - 0.4 less than 0.1 4 0.7 Undifferentiated shell 0.4 less than 0.1 - - - - - - - - - - Total 20,710.3 852 - 22,876.8 - 666 - 19,054.2 - 592 - 18AN287 column samples 1 and 2 18AN308 column sample 1 18AN1323 unit 1 Taxon Wt. (g) % wt. MNI % MNI Wt. (g) % wt. MNI % MNI WT. (g) % wt. MNI. %MNI Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) 12,356.1 99.9 334 95.7 6032.7 98.2 157 56.3 16,577.6 99.9 339 71.4 Stout tagelus (Tagelus plebeius) - - - - 1.6 less than 0.1 5 1.8 - - - - Softshell clam (Mya arenaria) 2.0 less than 0.1 1 0.3 13.4 0.2 23 8.2 - - - - Dark falsemussel (Mytilopsis leucophaeata) - - - - - - - - 8.2 less than 0.1 125 26.3 Marsh perwinkle (Littorata Irrorata) - - - - 1 less than 0.1 1 0.4 - - - - Undifferentiated clam 5.1 less than 0.1 4 1.1 85.8 1.4 1 0.4 - - - - Land snail 1.6 less than 0.1 7 2.0 3.9 0.1 59 21.1 0.5 less than 0.1 8 1.7 Barnacle 1.1 less than 0.1 1 0.3 1 less than 0.1 1 0.4 0.5 less than 0.1 1 0.2 Undifferentiated mussel 0.8 less than 0.1 2 0.6 2.7 less than 0.1 15 5.4 1.4 less than 0.1 2 0.4 Misc. gastropods - - - - 0.5 less than 0.1 17 6.1 - - - - Total 12,366.7 - 349 - 6142.6 - 279 - 16,588.2 - 475 - Journal of the North Atlantic T.C. Rick, L.A. Reeder-Myers, M.J. Carr, and A.H. Hines 2017 Special Volume 10 121 the estuary was a focus of human subsistence by the Early Woodland and Archaic as evidenced at other sites in the region (see Waselkov 1982). These data likely reflect 2 variables: human food preference and, perhaps more importantly, the abundance and ease of acquiring oysters from the bay. Despite this intensive level of harvest, our study documents no signs of overexploitation or major human-induced size declines as have been documented at a number of other sites around the world (e.g., Erlandson et al. 2008, Mannino and Thomas 2002), including during the Colonial/Historic period on the Chesapeake Bay (Miller 1986). This includes both a dearth of the 18AN1323 sample are significantly larger than those in the prehistoric samples. This may reflect new technologies (tonging, dredging, etc.) for acquiring larger, subtidal oysters that may have been subjected to more limited human harvesting in the past. All of the prehistoric sites have average sizes just below the modern 3-inch limit and appear to be slightly smaller on average than oysters from sites in higher salinity zones (Rick et al. 2016). While inclusion of oysters smaller than 35 mm did not have an effect on our interpretations, we note that 3% of our oysters were from oyster spat including individuals as small as 10.4 mm. These data suggest that people were collecting all size ranges, including spat, and returning to the sites for deposition. This finding matches previous patterns at Fishing Bay where oysters less than 35 mm were recovered, including numerous very small spat that were not measured because the valve side could not be determined (Reeder-Myers et al. 2016). Discussion and Conclusions The 7 Rhode River shell middens provide insight into the nature of Woodland period shell middens and human exploitation of a Chesapeake Bay subestuary for about 3000 years. Like previous discussions of Chesapeake Bay estuarine resource exploitation (e.g., Custer 1988, 1989; Dent 1995; Reeder-Myers et al. 2016; Rick et al. 2015a, 2016; Waselkov 1982), these studies document the extreme abundance of oysters almost to the near exclusion of other species. They also demonstrate that Table 5. Oyster shell heights in mm from Rhode River Shell Middens. Measurements differ slightly from those reported in Rick et al. (2016) because measurements less than 35 mm were excluded from that study. Sample Height (mm) Std. size Avg. Min. Max. dev. Early Woodland 18AN308 489 60.01 10.41 111.80 16.11 Middle Woodland 18AN285 414 61.48 23.00 189.16 17.23 Late Woodland 18AN226 203 53.28 24.00 112.30 16.16 18AN285 765 65.61 16.90 114.78 15.03 18AN286 1383 63.36 12.90 134.68 15.12 18AN287 887 70.20 21.18 134.00 13.77 Total 3238 65.14 12.90 134.68 15.37 Historic 18AN1323 201 79.92 22.80 155.50 21.01 Rhode River Total 4342 64.89 10.41 189.16 16.38 Table 4. Summary of vertebrate faunal remains from Rhode River Shell Middens (all units combined). No vertebrates were recovered from 18AN839. 18AN226 18AN285 18AN286 Taxon Wt. (g) % wt. Wt. (g) % wt. Wt. (g) % wt. Undifferentiated bone 5.3 100.0 72.6 87.4 8.7 9.0 Mammal bone - - 9.7 11.7 56.4 58.1 Fish bone - - 0.4 0.5 0.1 0.1 Turtle humerus - - 0.4 0.5 - - White -tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) - - - - 31.4 32.4 Beaver (Castor canadensis) - - - - 0.4 0.4 Total 5.3 - 83.1 - 97.0 - 18AN287 18AN308 18AN1323 Taxon Wt. (g) % wt. Wt. (g) % wt. Wt. (g) % wt. Undifferentiated bone 5 4.1 1.4 63.6 0.2 66.7 Fish bone 3.4 2.8 - - 0.1 33.3 Mammal bone 52.9 43.6 0.8 36.4 - - White-tail deer (Odocoileus virginianus) 54.8 45.2 - - - - Raccoon (Procyon lotor) 5.1 4.2 - - - - Undifferentiated rodent 0.1 0.1 - - - Longnose gar (Lepisosteus osseus) - - - - - - Total 121.3 - 2.2 - 0.3 - Journal of the North Atlantic T.C. Rick, L.A. Reeder-Myers, M.J. Carr, and A.H. Hines 2017 Special Volume 10 122 and time periods in the Rhode River assemblages reflect an abundance of oysters, the Early Woodland materials at 18AN308 do have the greatest abundance of M. arenaria and T. plebius, providing some support for this hypothesis. The greatest range of vertebrate remains, however, comes from 18AN287 dated to the Late Woodland. After the Early Woodland, all of our assemblages are dominated by oysters, which suggests an almost singular focus on this taxa and following trends documented throughout the bay for the Late and Middle Woodland (Custer et al. 1997, Reeder-Myers et al. 2016, Waselkov 1982). This continuity in oyster use across the Woodland period is interesting and suggests that, despite changes in other aspects of Native American subsistence— especially hypothesized maize agriculture during the Late Woodland around 1000 years ago (see Gallivan 2011, 2016), oysters remained a fairly consistent and reliable resource. This pattern seems to follow broad trends noted by Gallivan (2016) for other parts of the Chesapeake where, despite new domesticates, people continued to exploit a wide variety of wild foods, especially oysters. Beyond the Chesapeake, this finding is similar to patterns of long-term continuity in coastal resource use in southern New England despite other societal or subsistence changes (Bernstein 2006, Tveskov 1998). The occurrence of dark falsemussels in the Historic period assemblage at 18AN1323 is unique for all sites. The dark falsemussel is a small bivalve that can live on oysters and is often found in larger clusters of hooked mussels which may help protect it from predators, with the hooked mussels generally significantly outnumbering dark falsemussels (Kennedy 2011a). This species is found primarily in the mesohaline zone of Maryland and is rare in Chesapeake Bay today, though in other parts of the world it is an invasive species capable of significant expansion (Kennedy 2011a, 2011b). This species was likely harvested incidentally while collecting oysters, but our undifferentiated mussel category, which likely contains hooked mussels, is rare at this site, especially compared to dark falsemussels. Kennedy (2011a) documented a massive short-term increase in the dark falsemussel population in Chesapeake Bay in 2004. It is possible that a similar historical event may explain the abundance of dark falsemussels at 18AN1323, but for now this remains speculative. Almost as interesting as what we found is what we did not find. Two resources in particular are either absent or recovered in very low abundance. The first of these are the remains of blue crabs (Callinectes sapidus), which were absent from all of our samples except for trace amounts found at 18AN285 in flotation samples by Gibb and Hines (1997). Blue clear human-induced size declines across multiple sites and through time, as well as in individual deposits (see Rick et al. 2016), a proposition that agrees with previous discussion of Native American environmental interactions on the Chesapeake (Miller 2001). We have hypothesized that the Native American oyster fishery was largely sustainable on the broad, regional level and on long time scales (centuries to millennia). As noted above, the only major change during the late Holocene was an increase in average oyster size during the Historic period which may reflect new technologies (tongs and dredges) and nutrient enrichment that caused greater oyster size and increased growth rates (Kirby and Miller 2005). Although people undoubtedly had localized impacts on oysters, several factors may have helped make the Native American fishery sustainable on long time scales and across broad spatial settings (Reeder Myers et al. 2016, Rick et al. 2016). For example, although people harvested oysters from a wide variety of areas and depths, the oyster fishery may have focused primarily on nearshore oysters with smaller amounts of deep-water oysters being taken, which could have left significant deep-water populations for recruitment. Subsistence rounds that also included domesticated plants and other foods may have reduced some pressure on oysters, as could using only the hands or relatively simple harvesting technologies to take oysters (see Kent 1992, Rick et al. 2016). Some researchers have speculated that Native Americans in the Chesapeake had used specialized technologies for obtaining oysters. Holmes (1907:122–123), Gallivan (2016:93), Monroe and Goodrich (2012:79), and others have suggested that people may have used rakes or other similar objects to take oysters. Direct support for these assertions, however, is limited or speculative (e.g., Hulton 1984) and requires additional research. One point to make clear is that while the fishery may have been sustainable on long time scales and across broad spatial areas, this does not mean that people did not have an influence on oysters in deep time. Many scholars have suggested that, compared to the Middle and Late Woodland, Archaic and Early Woodland peoples harvested a greater number of shellfish species (Custer 1988, Potter 1982, Rick et al. 2015a, Waselkov 1982). The reason for this pattern is unclear, but it may be due to a more mobile subsistence strategy and greater use of a diversity of habitats. It may also be due to changes in environmental conditions, as rising sea level may have created more abundant oyster habitats as it inundated smaller river mouths feeding into Chesapeake Bay during the last 1500–2000 years. Although all sites Journal of the North Atlantic T.C. Rick, L.A. Reeder-Myers, M.J. Carr, and A.H. Hines 2017 Special Volume 10 123 crabs have been recovered in numerous Chesapeake shell middens, though they are usually found in low abundance (Rick et al. 2015b). The absence in our excavations is surprising and could be the result of either season of occupation (e.g., colder months when crabs are not active), or a lack of human exploitation. Similarly, finfish bones are rare in our samples, especially diagnostic bones, suggesting that people did not target fish at these sites, despite their presumed local abundance. Both of these findings again support the fact that people at these sites were largely focused on oysters, supplemented by deer and other resources. Although Wright (1968, 1969) excavated several Rhode River shell middens, the only other previous study of a prehistoric shell midden in the Rhode River with quantified faunal remains is from the Smithsonian Pier site (18AN284/285) adjacent to our work at 18AN285 (Gibb and Hines 1997). That analysis included macrobotanical and microbotanical remains, faunal remains, and artifacts from a Middle Woodland deposit. Deer dominated the vertebrate assemblage, followed by terrapin and undifferentiated bird and mammal bones. Like the samples in our assemblage, oysters were the dominant shellfish, but trace amounts of softshell clam and blue crab claw were identified. The botanical samples included common forest species for the area, but macrobotanical remains also suggested the use of walnut, hickory, and sunflower. The microbotanical remains contained maize pollen, though this occurred in the subsoil precluding its confirmation as prehistoric (Gibb and Hines 1997). Ultimately, our data confirm the earlier work at 18AN284/285, which suggested opportunistic foraging focused on oysters. Our work indicates that ancient peoples in the area had limited impacts on local estuarine resources. People were active players in the land- and seascapes that they occupied and undoubtedly influenced and shaped local ecosystems around them. Moreover, intensive harvests may have caused some localized declines, but these were likely short lived and we have no clear sign of human-induced size declines or major resource depression. In fact, the remains indicate that shell richness declined through time as people increasingly specialized on oysters over other shellfish species. Additional analyses are necessary to further test ancient human impacts on local resources and ecosystems, especially plants and terrestrial ecosystems as those were not a focus of our analysis. When compared to later human land use in the Rhode River area, we note that the Colonial and Historic periods ushered in a time of introduced domesticated animals and plants, significant land clearance, and other processes (Cox and Sharpe 2003; Cox et al. 2007a, b; Gibb and Hines 1997). As noted above, one of our historic sites actually exhibited an increase in oyster shell size compared to earlier-dated sites. Despite this continuity in resource exploitation across the late Holocene or Woodland period, our previous work at 5 of these sites suggests that the presence of shell middens significantly enhanced the nutrients in the soils, even when directly compared to adjacent non-midden soils (Cook-Patton et al. 2014). This study also demonstrated that these midden soils harbor higher plant biodiversity and more native and rare species than adjacent non-midden soils. Collectively, these data demonstrate that Native Americans had significant effects on landscapes and ecosystems that continue to influence present-day patterns. These impacts may not always be apparent on resource size, abundance, and other common metrics for ancient human environmental impacts, but may manifest in soils, plants, and other long-term legacies of human land-use (see Cook- Patton et al. 2014). These are patterns that were likely operating throughout North America’s Atlantic Coast and beyond and deserve greater attention from archaeologists working throughout the region. Acknowledgments This research was supported by a grant from the National Geographic Society Committee for Research and Exploration (#8960-11) and a small grant from the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. Previous work at SERC by the Lost Towns Project was supported by the Maryland Historical Trust. 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