Maryland’s original settlement unearthed in St. Mary’s

It’s a discovery almost 400 years in the making.

The site of the original St. Mary’s Fort, built in 1634 by the first wave of European settlers who founded Maryland, has been located, Historic St. Mary’s City said Monday.

Director of Research and Collections Travis Parno and his team are credited with the find.

According to a museum news release, the site is roughly the size of a football field.

A drawing of St. Mary’s Fort, which was built by the first wave of European settlers who founded Maryland. (Courtesy Historic St. Mary’s City)

“Finding the location of Maryland’s original settlement is truly exciting news for our state and will give us an opportunity to reconnect with our pre-colonial and early colonial years,” Gov. Larry Hogan said.

“The state has been proud to support the study of St. Mary’s Fort and looks forward to further excavation of the area as we approach our state’s 400th anniversary.”

According to Historic St. Mary’s City, approximately 150 Maryland colonists arrived on two ships, Ark and Dove, in March 1634.

The Yaocomaco people, a tribe loosely allied with the Piscataway paramount chiefdom, called the area home. Not much is known about the period except what has been gleaned from English colonial records.

Researchers hope to “unearth new information about Maryland’s pre-colonial and early colonial past.”

The search for the site had stretched for decades. Fieldwork within the St. Mary’s City National Historic Landmark area started in 1971.

Definitive traces of the fort weren’t found until 2018, when a grant from the Maryland Historical Trust allowed researches to survey two suspected locations with ground-penetrating radar and other tools. A brief archaeological dig then confirmed the discovery.

St. Mary’s Fort, and Indigenous sites near the fort, are being excavated as part of HSMC’s People to People: Exploring Native-Colonial Interactions in Early Maryland.

The excavation site is open during public visitation hours.

HSMC has also teased the announcement of a “project unparalleled in its scope and scale, one that has great potential to reveal new information about the intersecting stories of Native people and English colonists,” slated for Thursday — Maryland Day.

Tune in on the museum’s website at 7 p.m. for the virtual announcement. No registration is needed and it’s free.

The museum itself is holding its opening day this Friday. See a full calendar of events online.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Writer/Editor for He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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