Unearthing early American life in St. Mary’s City

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St. Mary’s City is an archaeological jewel on Maryland’s Western Shore.

Founded in 1634, St. Mary’s City was the fourth permanent English settlement in North America. It served as Maryland’s first capital for 61 years before the government was relocated to Annapolis.

With the seat of government gone, St. Mary’s City was abandoned for the most part and the 17th-century town withered away. The remaining inhabitants returned to their agricultural roots.

The remains of the former capital and governor’s house lay relatively undisturbed for the next 250 years under fields of tobacco, corn and wheat. Today the city is a rare resource for the study of early American society.

Historic St. Mary’s City was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1969 and a complex of living history museums were established. The museums’ archaeologists and researchers are tasked to excavate, preserve, research and interpret the archaeological treasures that are still being unearthed today. They have recorded over 300 archaeological sites while investigated about 30 percent of the city.

Every summer, for over 40 years, Historic St. Mary’s City and St. Mary’s College of Maryland have hosted a rigorous ten week Archaeology Field School that attracts students from all over the United States and other countries. And on the last weekend of every July, the Tidewater Archaeology Weekend allows visitors to work side-by-side with archaeologists and students at dig sites and offers special inside’s look tours of the museum’s collections and the archaeology laboratory.