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Local Archeological Work Earns Recognition - January 24, 2011

Have you ever considered what's under your lawn? What's buried in the soil? What's hidden in nearby marshes?

Aaron Levinthal thinks about it all the time. But he doesn't just wonder, he digs to discover treasures, but more importantly, to gain a better understanding of those who lived here before us. Levinthal's carefully trained eyes see things differently than most of us do.

"The coolest thing, really, is that most people don't realize what's under the grass in their own backyard," said Levinthal. "With a little education, you gain a new perspective -- 15,000 years of culture is only inches away."

Levinthal has been spending his summers in Ocean City since he was a teenager. Over the years, he has come to appreciate the character, culture and the rich history of the region. What may to some be identified simply as an arrowhead is to Levinthal a reflection of an entire culture that relied on a subsistence strategy which we can only begin to understand. Levinthal is intent; he's trying to extract as much information as he can from things most of us dismiss as mundane. The smallest rock or pottery chip represents a person, a family, a community, a culture.

"All this is just below your feet," shares Levinthal, enthusiastically.

Over the past 12 years, Levinthal has provided innumerable volunteer and pro bono archaeological services to organizations and individuals on the Lower Shore. With a master's degree in history from Salisbury University, he has become an accredited Secretary of the Interior archaeologist who is a strong advocate for Lower Shore relics and resources.

Today, most of us must rely on academically trained professionals to remind us of the rich heritage under our feet and the value of the landscape around us. For this reason, the Lower Eastern Heritage Council recognized the valuable contributions of archaeologist Levinthal with the Tee O'Connor Heritage Professional Award last week.

Levinthal's work experience and education provide awareness of the prehistoric and historic archaeological richness of the Lower Eastern Shore. Levinthal educates himself on policy changes and alerts others of potential historic losses.

His work helps to ensure that our historic resources are not carelessly erased from the landscape without adequate investigation, recordation, and without our knowledge.

Levinthal has worked on dozens of Native American and 18th through 20th century archaeological sites, collaborated with more than 60 private individuals and has been involved with numerous organizations and government entities.

Organizations including the Wicomico County Recreation, Parks and Tourism Department, the National Parks Service, St. Martin's Episcopal Church, the Maryland Coastal Bays Program and Salisbury University have all relied on Levinthal's expertise. Most recently, he has become involved with the Rackliffe House Trust. Initially, Levinthal performed pro bono work with the Trust to determine necessary archaeological investigations related to stabilization.

Lately, his efforts have included advice and guidance related to the pursuit of a management plan, potential landscape developments and ways to bring the restored dwelling and outbuilding up to code. Excavations have involved a corps of volunteers including more than 40 students, college students, working adults and retirees. This past summer, so much volunteer interest existed that simply scheduling volunteer fieldwork time became an issue.

Levinthal reminds us that "Delmarva has so much open space, wetlands, and undeveloped space -- it's really extraordinary. And what attracted us to this area, is the same thing that attracted people for thousands of years before us." Preserving our waterways, our landscapes, and our culture is something we should all work to ensure.

If you're interested in finding out more about historic preservation efforts in the Maryland Coastal Bays watershed, e-mail us at mcbp@mdcoastalbays.org or visit www.mdcoastalbays.org.

  • By Carol Cain (technical coordinator) and Carrie Samis (education coordinator) for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program.

  • Local Archeological Work Earns recognition

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