How can we see invisible history? The Kings Reach archaeological dig site reveals centuries-old stories of Native, colonial and African American settlements. Designed by C&G for Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum and Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab, the project lightly sketches in the hidden traces of the past.
Kings Reach itself is an interpretive archaeology experience of a late 17th- and early 18th-century tobacco plantation mapped by Captain John Smith in 1612. In the 1980s, archaeologists revealed artifacts here in thirteen underground pits, and began piecing together the rich history of the site of Kings Reach.
Items found on site, such as a gun barrel and ornate bridle decoration, attest to the owner’s wealth. Handmade and imported pipes corroborate the transformation of English servants from indentured to free. And ceramic blue beads hint at the presence of African American enslaved people on the site as well.
The pit diagrams, atop an accurate re-creation of the plantation building footprint, provide a framework of interpretation. These essentially label the ground itself, and along with nearby interpretive imagery and text, they make the invisible more real. Adjacent graphics are worked into built features like doors, located where those features would have been, to bring the invisible to life in three dimensions.
In addition to the Kings Reach archaeology experience, the Layers of Time Trail includes a trailhead, classroom & picnic pavilion, replicated Woodland Indian Village, boardwalk habitat scavenger hunt and an overlook of the Patuxent River and Flood Plain Forest habitats. The Layers of Time trailhead features a birds-eye watercolor map done in collaboration with the Maryland Arts Council and illustrator Mark Stutzman.
A trail boardwalk joins two cul-de-sac trails to create a loop. The boardwalk includes interpretative artwork of the river and forest habitats done in a plein-air painting style, calibrating the content with the view. Reader rails encourage visitors to use scavenger hunt clues.
In the nearby pavilion and Indian Village gateway, the story of Native American presence along the Patuxent is revealed through extensive archaeological evidence. The nearby Woodland Indian Village evokes native life in 1612, when Captain John Smith first visited.