Public Invited To Archaeology Dig

BERLIN– The Rackliffe House Trust is seeking community volunteers to help with an archaeological dig next month.

On the weekends of Oct. 8 and 15, the Rackliffe House Trust will conduct an archaeology dig at the 18th-century plantation property. Archeologists are going to be searching for long-lost building remains detected during a 2018 survey.

“Visitors can learn about the process and help pick artifacts from excavated soil,” said archeologist Aaron Levinthal, a member of the Rackliffe House Trust board.

Thanks to restoration efforts, the Rackliffe House, a 1740s merchant-planter’s home overlooking the Sinepuxent Bay, now serves as a coastal museum that interprets 18th century life along Maryland’s coast. According to Levinthal, who’s been on the board for about 10 years, a 2009 archeological investigation resulted in the site becoming eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

“That means there is a lot of history intact, buried underground,” he said.

A grant-funded ground penetrating radar and magnetometry survey in 2018 built further on those findings.

“The results showed tons of buried what archeologists call subsurface features,” he said.

Those are things like trash pits and cellar holes. The survey also showed some anomalies. Some of those anomalies are what archaeologists will be investigating in October. Levinthal said one looks like a cellar hole that would have been associated with a house—not the main house—mapped in the 1840s. The other anomaly is close to the dairy.

“We’re thinking it’s probably the location of another outbuilding,” Levinthal said. “We’re hoping we can find evidence of it being a smokehouse.”

He said things like charcoal and bone fragments would support the smokehouse theory.

“You never really know what you’re going to find,” he said.

Archaeologists will be noting the artifacts excavated, which could also include ceramic and metal fragments, and Levinthal will write a report of the findings. Connections of the Rackliffe House are hoping the findings will be interesting enough to put together an additional exhibit for the site.

Attendees at the dig can watch and learn about the archaeology process and help screen for artifacts. There will be two public sessions each weekend day, one from 9 a.m. to noon and another from 1-4 p.m. Volunteers are advised to be prepared for outdoor work, wear sturdy shoes and bring bug spray, sunscreen and water. Space is limited to 16 people per session. To reserve a space, visit For more information call 410-629-1011 or email [email protected].

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.