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Local Archaeologist Leads Walking Lecture along Belmont Bay

18 Jun 2017 9:08 AM | Thomas Blackburn (Administrator)

Dr. Michael Johnson, the former Senior Archaeologist for Fairfax County, led a walking lecture along Belmont Bay on Saturday, June 17.  Thirty-eight people joined the walk.  Dr. Johnson briefly discussed the splitting of Pangea into the present-day continents and its impact on the geology of Virginia, and then focused on the changes in the geography of the Mason Neck area since the last Ice Age.  He explained that Belmont Bay did not exist 10,000 years ago, and that the Occoquan River once meandered near the current location of Mason Neck State Park. 

Turning to more recent times, Dr. Johnson explained that in the early 17th century, Native Americans grew corn on land in Belmont Bay, and that the land gradually was submerged due to rising sea levels and subsidence of the land.  He discussed Native American archaeological sites that are now under water, and how he recovered 30 2,000 year-old artifacts from the floor of Belmont Bay using a garbage can with the bottom cut out as a cofferdam to keep out water while he worked.  He also pointed out the site of the home of Reverend Massey, the pastor of Pohick Church, where George Washington once worshipped; and discussed the excavation of a Native American platform hearth on what is now the bike trail near the intersection of Gunston Road and High Point Road.  

Dr. Johnson, who has studied the Mason Neck area for forty years, agreed to return to the Park for another lecture later this year.  

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