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Accokeek Creek

The Accokeek Creek Site is located on the east bank of the Potomac River in southwestern Prince George’s County, Maryland, across the river from Mount Vernon. The site covers approximately 60 acres, roughly one-third of which was intensively occupied and has been designated as the Moyaone area. While artifacts dating from the Late Archaic and Woodland periods are present, the Accokeek Creek Site is best known for the archaeological record it contains of European colonization in the Mid-Atlantic region.

In the 1930s, Alice L.L. Ferguson, who owned the land on which the Accokeek Creek Site is situated, conducted the first systematic excavations at the site, though collectors had been visiting the area for many years. During the 1935–1939 excavations, scientists from many of the premier research institutions in the eastern United States visited the site. It was during this time that Dr. Henry B. Collins first suggested that the Accokeek Creek Site might be the Moyaone Village referred to on a map from 1612 attributed to Captain John Smith.

Ethnohistoric records document the establishment of the English colony at Jamestown in 1607, beginning the major, permanent juxtaposition of American Indian and European cultures in the region. In 1608, Captain John Smith explored the vicinity of Jamestown, including the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River, during which the Accokeek Creek Site was likely first visited. The sites of many native villages visited during these travels appear on a map published in 1612 attributed to Smith, including a village named “Moyaons.” Based on its location and the archaeological evidence, it seems likely that the Accokeek Creek Site is, as Ferguson concluded, the “Moyaons” village Captain John Smith documented.

In 1608 the Moyaone village was a large, stockaded town, whose residents were frequently engaged in conflict with the “Powhatan Confederacy” located on the Virginia side of the Potomac. Conflict in this region increased as colonists and Susquehannocks continued to move into the area. In 1623, the trader Captain Spelman and many of his party were killed enroute up the Potomac, spurring Governor Wyatt of Virginia to burn many of the villages on both sides of the Potomac in reprisal. Ethnohistoric and archaeological evidence suggest that Moyaone was one of the villages burned.

The residents of Moyaone are thought to have fled to Piscataway Fort on Piscataway Creek. In 1680, the Piscataways abandoned this fort and moved to Zekiah Swamp to escape the continual raids by the Iroquois and Susquehanna. A band of Susquehannocks, however, moved into the area of Piscataway Creek in 1647, living in a place known as Susquehannock Fort, which Ferguson uncovered in the Claggett’s Cove Area of the Accokeek Creek Site in 1940. The Susquehannock Fort was abandoned while under siege in 1675.

Significantly, the Accokeek Creek Site documents the complex interactions of American Indians and European colonists in the Mid-Atlantic region during the 17th century.