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  • Charles L. Hall, Ph.D.

The Archeology of Healing and Medicine

Updated: Mar 19

Charlie Hall,

Chair, Maryland Archeology Month Committee

These early 18th century examples (2.82” and 1.73” tall) were found in the filled cellar of a structure called the Priest's House at the Chapel site in St. Mary's City
18th century medicine vials found in the filled cellar of the Priest's House at the Chapel site in St. Mary's City


When the Maryland Archeology Month Committee “met” (and we all know what it means to “meet” these days!) this past Fall our most important piece of business was to select the theme for the 2021 celebration. While this is a bit routine – choosing the theme is always the most important item on the agenda at our kickoff meeting – there was a difference this year. Try as I might to generate some debate (we had many excellent candidates), there really was no question that the Maryland Archeology Month theme for 2021 would echo the principal theme of these times: COVID-19. The Committee was clear, however, that the theme should reflect the hopeful and positive aspects of the current stage of the pandemic. By the time you read this we may be entering Dr. Fauci’s “open season” when anyone can receive a vaccination. This is indeed hopeful and positive. At this rate Maryland Archeology Month 2022 may mark the return to the usual menu of in-person public-engaging events including lectures, workshops, public excavations, open labs, and more.


That was no typo. I meant 2022. This year will mark the second COVID-19 affected Maryland Archeology Month. The virus hit with a vengeance last March just as we were preparing to celebrate. We were all reeling from the changes the response to the state of emergency meant in our day-to-day lives, and for Maryland Archeology Month event sponsors this meant cancelations. Yet we persevered! Governor Hogan declared that April 2020 was Archeology Month in Maryland. The mailing went out as usual. Within the confines of the restrictions that were being put into effect, efforts were made to mark the celebration. Several blogs and video lectures were posted on the internet, and a web-based storymap was launched.


This year we have the added benefit of being able to plan with the pandemic as the controlling factor. We know that most in-person events will not be possible. As a result you can expect many more virtual events. An example will be video interviews with the authors of the eight essays presented in this booklet. These short and casual videos will be posted on the Maryland Historical Trust’s YouTube channel with links provided on the Maryland Archeology Month website (marylandarcheologymonth.org) and the website of the Archeological Society of Maryland (marylandarcheology.org). There will also be a live-streamed webinar with three of the authors on Thursday April 22 at 2pm when each panelist will speak on their essay topic for 10 minutes, followed by discussion and audience Q&A. Several in-depth lectures are also planned. And you can expect written blogs and other online content. You’re going to be busy this April! You’ll want to watch the Maryland Archeology Month website (marylandarcheologymonth.org) closely!


I also hope you enjoy the essays presented in this booklet. They show how those who lived in this special place in the past faced health issues and healed through the use of medicine in very familiar ways. I hope something like the vials pictured on the cover of this booklet will soon be in your future!

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