The Area Before European Settlement
Journeys into Riviera Beach
According to a history of Anne Arundel County:
About the time the Bay was forming after the Ice Age, the first humans made an appearance in the region. The discovery of a fluted projectile point near the head of the Severn indicates the presence of humans there as early as 10,000 years ago. Those people, probably nomadic and dependent upon nature for their existence, undoubtedly found the river environment favorable, with its abundance of marine life and game animals of that post-ice-age era. Traces found in the Broadneck area dating to the period 7,000 to 5,000 years ago (late Archaic) include grooved axes, spearthrower weights, projectile points and toward the end of the period, shards of steatite (soapstone) vessels. The numerous ridges and terraces overlooking the Severn provided excellent sites for villages and camps. Investigations from 1956-1964 located seventy-two such sites, and six were examined in detail. Studies have divided these sites into various phases. The Accokeek phase of 2,000 years ago was followed by the Selby Bay phase of 1,300 to 1,500 years ago, during which time trade extended from the Rappahannock to Martha's Vineyard. The earlier Indians did not practice horticulture, but subsisted on wild plants, oysters, deer, raccoons, squirrels, box turtles and fish. The growing of corn, squash, beans and tobacco probably began during the Selby Bay phase. During the Sullivan's Cove phase of 1,000 years ago, and the Round Bay phase of 700 years ago, oysters and small game were still an important food source. These early Indians were succeeded by Algonquian tribes from the Eastern Shore, who were in turn displaced by the belligerent Susquehannocks, an Iroquoian tribe from Pennsylvania.
When Captain John Smith explored the Chesapeake Bay in 1608 he did not venture into the Severn, but he indicated that the Susquehannocks claimed the entire upper western shore as their hunting ground. The early European settlers were fortunate to sign a treaty with the Susquehannocks in 1652. The Susquehannocks then moved northward where, in 1661, they began a period of warfare with the Cayugas and Senecas (the Susquehannocks were defeated after smallpox killed over half of their warriors in 1674). After the withdrawal of the Susquehannocks, other Indians-primarily Choptanks, Mattaponys, and Piscataways - frequented the area briefly, but the Severn had become the white man's domain.
Image credit:1612 Map of the Chesapeake Bay by John Smith (Wikipedia)