Point of Beginning

Drinking Jugs Point the Way to an Archaeological Find

June 16, 2008
A 75-year search for Maryland's elusive 17th-century courthouse ends after a surveyor narrows the scope of investigation and archaeologists pick up a trail of broken beer tankards and wine bottles.


Courthouse Site Had Been Sought Almost 75 Years
     
By Megan Greenwell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 9, 2008; Page B04
 
When searching for 17th-century courthouses, it might be good to keep in mind spirits -- the alcoholic, not ghostly, kind.
 
Back then, around the 1670s, it seems councilmen and judges spent a fair amount of their time swilling liquor, so remnants of their wine bottles and beer tankards are easy to find. In fact, it was pieces of those stone and glass vessels that led a team of archaeologists to discover the original Charles County courthouse, the oldest government building in Maryland whose remnants could never be located -- until now.
 
"Oh, they drank at night when they were sitting around talking about the day, they drank on breaks and they might even have been doing it when they were in court," said Julia King, an anthropology professor at St. Mary's College of Maryland who led a group of students in searching for the courthouse. "You can see pieces of their glasses everywhere you turn."