Native Americans at Jug Bay on the Patuxent
Native Americans occupied this area of the Patuxent as early as 8,500 B.C, according to evidence discovered in the Jug Bay area. An archaeological dig at Pig Point, located just a mile from the Sanctuary, uncovered the oldest know artifacts in the Mid Atlantic states. Ax heads, pottery shards, projectile points, ornamental collars, and remnants of longhouses, fires, and foodways tell the story of Native American communities of long ago. In fact, the wealth of artifacts found along the Patuxent River suggests that early Indian groups found the area a very fertile place. Read about the latest discoveries at Pig Point suggesting that it was a major trade and ritual center.
For several thousand years Native American groups lived here as semi-nomads, hunting and fishing along the river. Their way of life became increasingly more settled during the MIddle and Late Archaic periods (6,000- 1,000 B.C.) when these early peoples reached their highest numbers and their villages became more and more oriented to the river. Trade with neighboring tribes began; the bow and arrow was developed around 800 A.D.
The first colonists to travel up the Patuxent early in the seventeenth century found small groups of peace-loving Indians, called the Piscataway, living along the shores of the Patuxent River. Tribes living across southern Maryland at that time made up what was called the Piscataway Nation. In their Algonquian language, it is believed that Piscataway means "high passable bank around a bend in a river.”
The Piscataway of Jug Bay lived in longhouses, which were arch-shaped structures made of young tree saplings bent, bound together, and covered with skins in winter, or mats woven from marsh plants in summer. Mats were also spread out on a scaffold and used for sleeping.
The Piscataway used the gullies around Jug Bay as natural ramps to the river. With dug-out canoes, carved from the long, straight trunks of tulip trees, they foraged in the wetlands and the river for food.
They also hunted small animals (rabbits, birds, squirrels, ducks, and geese) and larger animals such as black bear, bobcat, wolf, and deer. Using slash-and-burn agriculture, they cleared areas for crops like corn and yams. They also relied on seeds; nuts, including hickory nuts, black walnuts, and acorns; and fruits.
Artifacts dating from the Middle to Late Woodland Period (500 - 1000 AD) indicate that craftsmanship regressed. Perhaps this can be explained by a transition from smaller, more nomadic groups to established villages. Population pressures may have increased with groups vying for arable land. With the arrival of English settlers, the world of the Piscataway changed forever. Believing they would be helped in their fight against the opprssive Susquehannas, the Piscataway were friendly to the first colonists. By the late 1600s, the Piscataway began to moving north permanently, as more and more colonists began moving into southern Maryland.