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First Peoples

The site on which the National Library of Medicine now sits has been a scene of human activity for thousands of years. In 1983–4, prior to the construction of the Woodmont Avenue extension, archeological excavations were carried out in the area just south of NLM, across the small brook. There, evidence was uncovered of extensive tool-making activity from the Late Archaic through the Late Woodland periods (approximately 1000 BC–1600 AD).

Stone tool in use. Illustration from Edwin Tunis. Indians. Rev. ed. New York. Text copyright © 1959 by Edwin Tunis. Copyright renewed © 1987 by Maryland National Bank. Published by Thomas Y. Crowell. Text reprinted by permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd. Stone tool in use. Illustration from Edwin Tunis. Indians. Rev. ed. New York. Text copyright © 1959 by Edwin Tunis. Copyright renewed © 1987 by Maryland National Bank. Published by Thomas Y. Crowell. Text reprinted by permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd. Stone tool in use. Illustration from Edwin Tunis. Indians. Rev. ed. New York. Text copyright © 1959 by Edwin Tunis. Copyright renewed © 1987 by Maryland National Bank. Published by Thomas Y. Crowell. Text reprinted by permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd.
Stone tools in use
Illustrations from Edwin Tunis. Indians. Rev. ed. New York

Text copyright © 1959 by Edwin Tunis
Copyright renewed © 1987 by Maryland National Bank
Published by Thomas Y. Crowell
Text reprinted by permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd.


The area, not far from an ancient trail (present-day Wisconsin Avenue/Old Georgetown Road) and near a source of water, is thought to have served as a temporary hunting camp and a stopping place for groups traveling between western Maryland and the Potomac River. Among the objects found are stone projectile (i.e. spear and arrow) points, hammerstones, and daggers, and thousands of stone flakes and fragments, indicating a long history of tool and weapon manufacture.

Spear and arrow points, hammerstones, and daggers, stone flakes and fragments. Courtesy DeWitt Stetten, Jr., Museum of Medical Research, National Institutes of Health.
Courtesy DeWitt Stetten, Jr., Museum of Medical Research, National Institutes of Health

Charts of the excavation site show the distribution of prehistoric artifacts and the distribution of specific types of projectile points. The stream running from upper left to lower right is now covered by Woodmont Ave. The NLM site is off the charts to the right. (B.P.=before present).

Map of the excavation site showing the distribution of projectile points discovered. Daniel Koski-Karell, et al. Technical report. Phase 2 Archeological Evaluation for the Woodmont Avenue Extension Project. Washington, D.C., 1986. Courtesy Montgomery County Department of Public Works and Transportation, Division of Engineering Services. Map of the excavation site showing the distribution of prehistorical artifacts from shovel test pits. Daniel Koski-Karell, et al. Technical report. Phase 2 Archeological Evaluation for the Woodmont Avenue Extension Project. Washington, D.C., 1986. Courtesy Montgomery County Department of Public Works and Transportation, Division of Engineering Services.

Daniel Koski-Karell, et al. Technical report. Phase 2 Archeological Evaluation for the Woodmont Avenue Extension Project.
Washington, D.C., 1986.

Courtesy Montgomery County Department of Public Works and Transportation, Division of Engineering Services.