Prehistoric Landscapes of the Nation's Capital
About 100 meters (328 ft) to the west of the Peter House lay the Ramp 3 site, at the edge of the Rock Creek Parkway. Historic maps show the shoreline approximately 75 meters (246 ft) to the west of the site in the 18th century, as it is today. Beneath the historical remains of Reed Alley was an intact prehistoric deposit that dated to the Late Woodland period.
Below a Late Woodland deposit was a shallow pit capped with large stones, designated as Feature 283. The feature measured 70 cm in width (27.3 in). The fill was a reddish brown to black coarse sandy loam, which contained burned earth and charred, partially burned wood. The artifact assemblage included a large slate pendant and a smaller schist pendant, 14 Great White shark teeth, a large triangular black chert knife blade, a stone phallus, severely burned human and large bird bone, 83 fragments of burned antler which mended into a comb, six antler disks, one wooden bead, and small pieces of preserved textile made from plant fibers. Other plant remains included walnut, pokeweed, and magnolia. The feature radiocarbon dated from 640 to 790 A.D.
On the basis of the evidence at hand, the following hypotheses can be made. The pit, Feature 283, contained the cremated remains and grave goods of a high status individual. Upon death, the body was cremated. Cremation did not occur in Feature 283. Rather, this pit represents the final resting place of the deceased. The cremated remains were removed from the cremation location and placed in the pit with artifacts, including the pendants, phallus, antler comb, and, possibly, plant remains. A ceremonial fire was lighted and then extinguished as the pit was filled. This hypothesis is supported by the presence of large, partially-burned branches and other grave goods. The pit then was capped with large stones.
Feature 283 and its contents are not typical of late Middle Woodland burials in the Middle Atlantic region of the United States. Rather they are similar to burials from archeological sites in the Northeast studied by William Ritchie. Collectively, these sites represent an archeological culture named the Kipp Island phase by Dr. Ritchie. Artifacts from Kipp Island phase burials discovered in Ontario, Canada, and upstate New York are similar to those found at Whitehurst and two other sites in Virginia—the Bowman Mound site in Rockingham County and the Hand site in Southampton County. The assemblages also bear some similarities to examples found at the Island Field site in Delaware.