Prehistoric Landscapes of the Nation's Capital
The Peter House
Foundations from 18th and 19th century houses were built directly over intact prehistoric deposits. The gully ran beneath the sidewalk north of the houses. During late prehistory, the drainage was filled. It contained stratified, charcoal-rich deposits with large amounts of fire-cracked rock, flaking debris from stone tool making, and broken bits of pottery, or sherds, in sufficient numbers to indicate that the surface had been stable and open for an extended period of time.
Artifacts ranged in date from Middle Archaic projectile points (6500-3000 B.C.) to Late Woodland points and ceramics (900-1600 A.D.), with the Middle and Late Woodland periods most frequently represented (the time from about 500 B.C. to 1600 A.D.—click here to view prehistoric time chart). Over time, a series of deposits was formed through a combination of trash dumping from a large site located upslope and other activities. Two intact hearths, dating to the early Late Woodland period, contained fire-cracked rock and sherds. Charred organic materials found on the inner surfaces of some sherds were dated to around 1100 A.D.
This exhibit highlights three archeological sites identified as a result of this work: The Peter House, Ramp 3, and Whitehurst West. These sites offered archeologists a number of excavation challenges. For a brief discussion on how these hurdles were overcome, see Excavating the Whitehurst Freeway Sites.
Plant remains from one of the features included bedstraw, pokeweed, and wild grape, all with known prehistoric food and medicinal uses. Dates on samples from the surrounding deposit ranged from 970 to 1090 A.D. Dates from the lowest levels of the deposit ranged from 260 B.C. to 180 A.D., which convincingly places the main occupations within the Middle to early Late Woodland periods.