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Center for


Environment & Society

CRS 242: The Social Science of an Estuary

Course Topics

This course will explore the following topics. Some lecturers will be on campus, while others will be delivered while we are on the road. Topics will include:

  • The Birth of an Estuary - the Ice Age landscape and the great warming
  • The First Inhabitants — Paleoindians
  • The Archaic and Woodland Traditions
  • The Chesapeake on the Eve of Contact — environment, social structure, subsistence, trade and exchange
  • The European Influx
  • The Southern Chesapeake: Virginia in the Early Years — Roanoke, Jamestown, life & death in the New World
  • Emergence of a Distinctive Economy - Tobacco & Labor
  • The North: Maryland in the Early Years — Claiborne, the Calverts and St. Mary’s City
  • Shapes in the Landscape - Settlement patterns, rural and urban landscapes, and changing environments and economies
  • African Americans in the Chesapeake
  • Tidewater architecture
  • Foodways
  • Understanding the water - maritime trades and fisheries
  • Understanding the land — agriculture, development, and changing environments
  • Sense of Place — tradition and culture; “place attachment”
  • The Bay Today

Sample Activities

  • Archaeological excavation at Chesapeake Environmental Center (Kent Narrows)
  • Understanding material culture — looking at artifacts (Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum collections, WC Archaeology Lab)
  • Replicating stone tools and prehistoric fishing materials
  • Foodways: prepare a Native American feast; crabbing and a crab feast; a colonial evening (Chowning’s Tavern); visits to an oyster festival and fish fry
  • Architectural exploration — field survey of changing styles
  • Working in a boat shop
  • Working on a farm for a day
  • Oral histories or interviews