A silver coin found in Maryland after almost 400 years provided a big clue for archaeologists searching for St. Mary’s Fort — one of the earliest English settlements in the New World.
“It didn’t exactly have the date printed on it, but it was pretty much the next best thing,” Parno said. “It had a maker’s mark that was only used in 1633 and 1634, so it might as well have had the date printed on it, to be honest.”
Coins were uncommon at the time, Parno said, because people would often pay for goods, services and even land with tobacco, which was becoming wildly popular in Europe.
Parno said one of the original 150 English settlers at the fort most likely carried it to Maryland and then lost it.
Archeologists found the coin in November near a building site where they were working in St. Mary’s Fort, which was the first home to English settlers in Maryland.
Experts with ground-penetrating radar and other tools found the original palisade — a sturdy fence made of buried logs — that was built to protect the fort, which was about the size of a football field. There was a bastion at one corner for a canon, Parno said.
The archeologists then dug in the area for several months and found other artifacts that indicate that the site was used in the early 17th century.
“At this point, we’ve got a confluence of data that says this is without a doubt, the remains of St. Mary’s Fort,” Parno said. “The coin definitely helped. It was kind of like the cherry on top.”
It was the fourth English colony in the United States after Jamestown, which was founded in 1607, Plymouth in 1620 and Massachusetts Bay in 1630, according to the museum’s website.
Archaeologists are still working to excavate part of the fort and Parno said that work will continue for the foreseeable future.
The site is open to the public.
Parno said that there are two Native sites near the fort — one is about 2,000 years old and the other dates back about 5,000 years.
“Our goals are to treat all three of these sites, that are all kind of right next to each other, as the subject of our study, to trace the entire history of human occupation in this part of Maryland, back thousands of years,” Parno said.