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Mark P.

Leone 1 Historical Archaeology

22.1 (1988): 29-35

18th Century Gardens

in Annapolis, Maryland

The Relationship Between

Archaeological Data and the
Documentary Record:
18th Century Gardens in Annapolis,


Archaeological and documentary sources on three 18th century formal gar-

dens in Annapolis, Maryland, are compared against each other in order to
outline a method for knowing the past through historical archaeology. The
suggested method is analogous to middle range theory.
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The issue that I believe historical archaeologists can deal

with profitably is the relationship between the archaeological
record, already rather well handled, and the documentary re-
cord. I would like to provide an example in this essay of a tie
between the two records which might provide a model of
how to fit these two complementary realities together.
In order to get to the heart of the matter, I want to say that
there are some factors in this relationship with which I am
not concerned. I do not want to characterize the current rela-
tionship between archaeology and history. Often it is said
that historians tend to dismiss the results of historical archae-
ology as incidental or irrelevant to their research, with the
implication that their research questions are an ultimate
measure of importance. And often it is said that archaeolo-
gists treat documents as time machines. That is, puzzling
artifacts can be identified by date, function, and some degree
of meaning by referring to a printed source that mentions
them, and thus tells what they are or were. In order to do
justice to these traditional relationships, whatever they are,
they would have to be well and accurately described, and not
just characterized. So, I am avoiding a description of the usu-
al relationship.
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The other issue I would like to mention is the relationship of

middle range theory to my efforts here to link together ar-
chaeological evidence and documentary evidence. Lewis R.
Binford's creative and complex work on middle range theory
is the inspiration for my suggesting that we give independent
epistemological statuses to the archaeological and document-
ary records. Latent in my use of Binford's work is not a direct
borrowing of his formulation, but use of it as an analogy. I
suggest that historical archaeologists treat their two sources
of knowledge as he treated the archaeological record and the
present, which is the one source of a prehistorian's know-
ledge. I borrow from Binford by making an analogy between
the prehistorian's world and the world of historical archae-
ology. The world of historical archaeology consists of the
archaeological and written records, yet the written record is
not identical to the ethnographic record. It is not ethnograph-
ic; it is dead, but it is also more lively than the archaeological
record. Thus, middle range theory serves as an analogy here,
more akin even to inspiration. The issue is how can we know
the past more accurately through the archaeological record?
How do we make that record work for our understanding of
the past?
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I would like to use some data on formal gardens from the

18th century in Annapolis, Maryland, in order to explore an
answer to this question. The gardens happen to be the data in
historical archaeology that I know best, but they also happen
to be extremely rich as well as very well understood. My
hope is of course that these conditions do not create a special
case, but that the method I want to use can be generalized
beyond them.
Annapolis had at least a dozen formal gardens in the later
18th century. It may have had more, and outside the city
there were dozens of formal gardens up and down Ches-
apeake Bay, all associated with plantation houses. There
were and still are hundreds of formal gardens built up and
down the East Coast of the colonies and of the United States
from the 18th century on, and they turn out to be truly ex-
traordinary environments for an archaeologist to consider.
In the 1960s, in Annapolis, one of these gardens was re-
covered archaeologically by Historic Annapolis, Inc., now a
well-established 35 year old preservation group. Using a
series of historical archaeologists, the garden of William
Paca was recovered and then reconstructed. The garden is in-
terpreted today in Annapolis to the public as both an
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archaeologically-based reconstruction and as a horticultural

The garden was originally built in the 1760s along with a
conventional Georgian-style house. The garden survived into
the early 20th century, when it was destroyed to make room
for a 200-room hotel which was built directly over its upper
sections. The hotel's parking lot was built over the section of
the garden further from the house. The house itself survived
as the hotel's facade and lobby.
Starting in 1968, when the hotel was torn down, the garden
area was tested and then dug. The wall footings which sur-
rounded the two acre garden were discovered, and since the
wall had dipped down when the garden sloped, the terraces,
or descents, or falls, as they are called, were recovered in
outline or cross-section, and thus the basic topography of the
garden, its size and contours, was available for reconstruc-
tion. The archaeological evidence was combined with a few
period descriptions of the garden, as well as with a contem-
porary portrait of William Paca with the garden in the
background, in order to rebuild the garden.
The garden today is also a living environment and is presen-
ted as one. A visitor is presented with a list of growing and
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flowering plants with the species names. Even though most

tours are self-guided, those that are given often feature the
histories of specific rare plants, the vernacular uses of house-
hold plants, the medicinal properties of others, the growing
zone of some, the heat and water tolerances of some, and the
life or former spread of others. Thus, the garden is a place for
gardeners and plant lovers, a place of soils, greenhouses,
grass types, old vs. tea roses, and the 10,000 flowering plants
it takes to make the flower parterre bloom throughout the
year. In other words, the garden is a horticultural environ-
Today, Historic Annapolis, Inc., presents the restored "pleas-
ure gardens of William Paca" as a garden known in its time
as "extremely elegant," built by a man of taste and education.
The interpretation indicates that Paca was a signer of the De-
claration of Independence, first elected governor of
Maryland, and first federal judge in Maryland. The garden
was recovered by diligent research efforts from the ruins of
the hotel that had superseded it and now contributes to the
environmental quality of Maryland's capital city.
In order to rebuild the buildings in the garden, i.e., a pavilion,
bath house, spring house, and Chinese Chippendale bridge,
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Historic Annapolis, Inc., used the products of archaeology

and the period portrait of Paca by Charles Willson Peale. The
reconstructed garden also has a Conservation Center and a
Plant Yard used to propagate 18th century flora. Endangered
plant species are preserved in the garden. Propagating indi-
genous plant material and providing data on 18th century
horticulture are all purposes of the garden. The feat of recov-
ery, the high degree of historical accuracy, the propagation of
18th century horticulture, and the illustration of the details of
an 18th century urban space, which exists harmoniously in a
modern city, are the key elements of the garden's current
meaning. All are unified by a single chronology that begins
with Paca's birth in 1740 and ends with the opening of his
house and garden to the public in the mid-1970s.
An interest in the garden's precision has always been a con-
cern for those responsible for its restoration. Eighteenth
century formal gardens were to look precise. They were well
managed, and the garden books show views of them and in-
dicate clearly that thought, labor, and money were required to
create and maintain them. The written rules and plates of il-
lustrations show that plants and trees were clipped, pruned,
and carefully tended to keep specific shapes and appear-
ances. There is a minor debate among those interested in
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gardens as to whether restored gardens, now maintained with

power equipment, could have looked so well tended in their
original form. This debate is easily resolved by people who
know the literature in favor of precision: the original gardens
were likely to have been carefully maintained.
But how carefully planned were they? I would like to sum-
marize the work done by Barbara Paca-Steele and St. Clair
Wright and sponsored by Historic Annapolis, Inc., which
speaks to this question. In the light of a serious concern with-
in the history of landscape architecture and gardening in
colonial America, these scholars have attempted successfully
to demonstrate that William Paca used well-known and pub-
lished principles of design to create a mathematically precise
plan that lies behind the arrangement of the major and even
some of the minor features of his garden. Paca-Steele and
Wright have gone beyond the matter of a precise-looking
landscape to the plan that was made first and then was imple-
mented in the visible environment.
The argument that Paca-Steele and Wright (1987) make is
fascinating and significant in and of itself. But it is also im-
portant because it forms a crucial component in knowing
about the past; it is a component in gaining knowledge about
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a part of 18th century life that all scholars agree was signific-
ant to the upper classes. They begin with the observation that
the original Paca property is two equal adjacent squares, each
198 x 198 feet. The dimensions are a function of an early
18th century survey. Working within this given set of bounds,
they argue that the garden was laid out using a set of 3-4-5
right rectangles and accompanying 3-4-5 right triangles, and
that the edges and sides of these account for and predict the
location of major garden features. The main block of the
house is a 3-4-5 rectangle, which means two 3-4-5 right tri-
angles, and it sits on a larger 3-4-5 rectangle. The smaller
rectangle contains a quarter of the house and a quarter of the
large rectangle which the house sits on and can be multiplied
out evenly over the entire garden. So the original four quar-
ters the house sits on, when flipped out, stretch out to twenty-
four rectangles, covering the entire garden, thus creating a
plan with an equal, even grid over it. The lines in this grid ac-
count for the edges of three terraces, the location of the
central axis in the garden, the location of the major garden
structures, and the major trees in the garden. Further, the
garden area itself is two adjacent 3-4-5 rectangles, each of
which clearly bounds the two distinct areas of the garden. All
this plane geometry is prescribed by 18th century English
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garden books found in contemporary Annapolis libraries.

There are several reasons for planning and building this way:
(1) to give credit to the owner, (2) to use geometry to create
views which are admirable, and (3) to control nature so as to
make it appear improved upon. This is the argument of Paca-
Steele and Wright, and aside from a few unexplained as-
sumptions which are needed to make the geometrical
analysis work, the presentation accounts in rather straightfor-
ward fashion for the order of the garden, and certainly for its
precision. There is no question that this material was pre-
scribed by period garden books and that William Paca knew
about them. It was all conventional knowledge.
An accurate reconstruction of the William Paca garden has
been established through archaeology, period pictures, and
period documents. Use of period garden books has not only
verified some of the primary documents, but using these
books has allowed previously unknown and unsuspected re-
lationships to be discovered. Thus, there has been a by-play
between the original elements of the garden and general
books about gardening. Even though Barbara Paca-Steele did
her work on the mathematics of the garden recently, I have
presented it as a continuum with the established tradition of
understanding the garden as accurately as possible and of re-
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ferring to its historical antecedents for understanding which

was established over 20 years ago by Historic Annapolis, Inc.
I was introduced to this garden over five years ago. My ini-
tial experience has always remained the touchstone for
subsequent analyses (Leone 1984, 1987). As I began to walk
through the garden from the top, which is sixteen feet higher
than the bottom, which is 150 feet away, I found it difficult to
tell distances; I felt I was being controlled, as paths, precise
borders, openings, stairs, and objects that had to be stepped
over operated everywhere to control me. This sensation was
especially true regarding sight. I read the documents, reports,
maps, plans, and letters involved in the Paca garden's excava-
tion and rebuilding. The reading, plus five years of
archaeological work in Annapolis, got me interested in the
other gardens in the city. Of the dozen or so that existed in
the later 18th century, two survive pretty much intact and
have never been destroyed. Two large gardens, each over two
acres in the middle of the city, were mapped very carefully
by our archaeological staff (Roulette et al. 1986; Hopkins
1986). These are descent or falling gardens like the William
Paca garden and begin to make a corpus of mapped historic
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I would like to describe some of the common elements of

these three gardens. There will be some contrast with the
presentation of the Paca garden described so far. The first
thing I discovered by playing off my initial experience
against the garden books from the 18th century was that the
gardens appear to be volumes and were built and designed to
follow the rules of perspective. They use baroque rules for
creating optical illusions. They use converging or diverging
lines of sight to make distances appear shorter or longer de-
pending on the need of the designer. They often do not use
parallel rows of beds or shrubs but use trapezoids, narrowing
bottom planes, and focal points at the end of converging and
diverging sight lines to manipulate a view. In other words,
the gardens are three-dimensional spaces built consciously
using rules which were well understood to create illusions for
those who walked through them. And there were many
gardening techniques and a set of rules of vision which could
be employed to this end. I have described these observations
in detail (1984, 1987), but it is not at all clear to me yet
whether the rules of plane geometry described by Paea-Steele
and Wright, and the observations on solid geometry that I am
referring to, compliment or conflict with each other. How-
ever, given that the 18th century garden books talk about 3-4-
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5 right-angled figures and encourage their use almost exclus-

ively to enhance sight, there must be a mathematical
connection between the plane and solid geometry.
My own position focuses on the illusions in the gardens and
connects them with a desired ability to demonstrate know-
ledge of and control over nature. It is relatively easy to use
the garden books to show that the gardens were places where
their builders were to demonstrate that they understood nat-
ural laws so well they could reproduce them and, in
reproducing a naturalistic view of the universe, were able to
say that society and its structure were natural and rational as
well. Virtually all of this position is a description from period
literature. The tie between the elements may be regarded as
hypothetical, and thus in need of justification, but not to any-
one familiar with the 18th century.
Since I took the illusionary and rational aspects of gardens as
given, the question then became why, not whether, gardens
were built this way. In order to build a hypothesis, several
moves were made.
Two of the three available gardens in Annapolis were built by
men who signed the Declaration of Independence, William
Paca and Charles Carroll of Carrollton. They were both quite
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wealthy men but built their gardens at a curious time. Given

that the gardens were conventional forms and virtually a re-
quirement of a wealthy person's city or country residence,
they could build gardens at any point. These gardens were,
however, built by people whose great wealth was already
achieved but whose power to protect it was being diminished
by Britain. To establish this latter fact, I borrow from Rhys
Isaac's work on contemporary Virginia (1982). Therefore, the
hypothesis is that by demonstrating command over the ability
to reproduce the laws of nature, the builders attempted to cre-
ate the illusion that (a) either they still had the power to
protect their wealth, or (b) they should by right of under-
standing nature have the political power that England had, in
order to protect themselves. In other words, the gardens are
statements of what did not exist. They were illusions, or
ideology (Althusser 1981). Thus, we are not dealing with two
or three gardens but with identical geometrical principles
seen from two quite different theories. The first theory sees a
wealthy man of English education and great taste, a constitu-
tional lawyer, a governor, a federal judge, a teacher of
lawyers, and a dedicated libertarian. By reconstructing his
garden and visiting his restored house a visitor may appreci-
ate his environment. The patriot should be known so that
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what is associated with him may be instructive. And emula-

tion is reasonable because the model is based on accuracy.
The second theory sees very rich men and women who real-
ize that the basis for their wealth is being undermined by two
factors. One was Parliamentary restrictions on trade and on
local office-holding, which compromised their profits and
power. Another was social and economic isolation of the
gentry by an ever larger and more difficult to control slave
population coupled with an ever larger number of increas-
ingly poor white farmers and day laborers who wondered
who their allies were. Building gardens uses horticulture and
the rules of perspective to advertise wealth and power
through geometrically based illusions, at the very time both
wealth and power were being undermined and diminished.
Gardens, therefore, are much more likely to be illusions
about the existence of wealth and. power, not reflections of
The question then is not, "Which is the correct interpretation
of the garden?'' The fact is that the first view of William Paca
and his garden and Charles Carroll of Carrollton and his
garden is a product of historical archaeology and the history
of historic landscapes. The second view of Annapolis gardens
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incorporates the same material and uses a materialist ap-

proach and assumes that capitalism's crises grow and
penetrate a society, and that material culture responds to and
may reflect them. Thus a more productive question is, "How
do we get around seeing two gardens by William Paca where
there is one?" And, "How can we be free enough to realize a
dialogue between plural gardens and plurai truths?"
A bit of freedom may be available if documents and archae-
ology are given different epistemological statuses. Since
even within one society, the artifacts and written records.
were used and produced by different people, for different
purposes, at different times, and survived for different reas-
ons, we may be able to see them as independent and
unidentical phenomena. That wilt prevent seeing documents
as time machines that can speak directly about artifacts. Such
an assumption may preserve or create a by-play between
these two realities as a way of learning about the past.
If artifacts and documents are epistemologically separate and
are not identities, then knowing each is knowing different
things. Second, comparing the two realms against each other
can be done precisely against a grid of some kind, and partic-
ularly the differences can be noted. Then, the social
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organization and structure and the system of meaning, i.e.,

the contemporary epistemology, which may be found in the
documents can also be noted. Then the disagreements or am-
biguities between the archaeological record and the
documentary record can be pinpointed. The ambiguity forces
one back to the documents and then back to the archaeology
again to see or discover what can be seen in either source that
was not apparent before. This method is analogous, and not
meant to be identical, to Binford's presentation of middle-
range theory (1981; 1983: 31-39,48, 315-19, 411-33; 1987).
The documentary record is analogous to the ethnographic re-
cord, since it is more articulated and thus has greater
integrity; it may contain descriptive grids, or native taxonom-
ies, or sets of rules, and it is also likely to contain the
behavior and structure behind the parts, rules, and divisions,
which gives meaning to the whole. The method is also ana-
logous because the ethnographic and archaeological cases
Binford cites are ontologically separate, which is not nor-
mally the case in historical archaeology. But of course it is
also the case that records from the past are not ethnographic.
Even so, either Binford's procedure or the one I am trying to
suggest allows two sources of independent information com-
plete separateness, which allows each to reflect on the other
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with some precision while preserving the differences

between the two for our advantage.
For gardens, the descriptive grid, which is a complete and
complex set of rules, but is not a literal grid, is to be found in
the 18th century garden books. Period letters from colonial
and newly independent America cited in McCubin and Mar-
tin's British and American Gardens in the Eighteenth
Century (1984) provide some information on the social or-
ganization and native meaning of the gardens. The particular
part of the descriptive grid that was useful for the hypothesis
that gardens sustain the illusion of power was the rules for
perspective, since by definition they would create illusions.
Once the rules were discovered in several books printed in
England, then the two surviving gardens of which we were
making maps showed that (1) the terraces of one narrowed as
they descended, and the terraces of the other broadened as
they descended, (2) lines of planting beds converged in one,
and (3) the edges of the central axis converged in both. The
second and third observations had not been noticed before in
Annapolis, or had been dismissed, and the first observation
had a meaning for the first time.
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Once we had an "accurate means of identification and a good

instrument for measuring specific properties of past cultural
systems" (Binford 1983:49), it was possible to make sense
out of quite confusing cultural patterns. The best case is the
garden associated with Charles Carroll of Carrollton. The
garden is a descent plan covering 2.75 acres with a drop of
24 feet. Each fall is outlined by a row of boxwood which,
while probably a modern replacement of original plantings,
considerably enhances the appearance of depth. The house,
dating before the garden, is on a slope to one side of the
garden. The house appears to be out of the garden and ap-
pears unarticulated to it. Further, the garden has a boxwood
allee at the head of its central ramp and had a gate or pavilion
nearby, indicating that the viewing point was from the top,
down to the open vista toward the water. But the viewing
point from the top of the garden seemed arbitrary, and no real
illusionary effect seemed present from here.
Two things happened. The most noticeable illusion or power-
ful impression in the garden is created by looking up into it
from the waterfront, which would have been the normal point
of entry to the property for virtually all visitors. And Paul
Shackel, the archaeologist who supervised the mapping, dis-
covered (personal communication) that the whole shape of
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the garden is a triangle, with one ramp the short leg of a 3-4-
5 right triangle and one terrace an extension of the front of
the house. He quickly saw that the terraces did not narrow as
they descended, they narrowed as they ascended, meaning
that the view to the house was exaggerated and made the
house appear much greater than it is. Further, the ascending
terraces, marked by long rows of box, all focus the attention
of the visitor arriving by water on the house, which sits as the
focus of the long rows of falls and box. Thus, suddenly using
the grid of rules for plane and solid geometry, the house had
an articulation with the garden and the organization of the
garden made sense. Now we knew something we did not
know before, and our conclusions began to have a redund-
ancy which gave them weight.
The organizational behavior that goes along with these gar-
dens is incompletely known now. Our research is unfinished.
But even so, we know that owners walked their peers
through the gardens, and the visitors admired the plantings
and commented on their own enhanced emotional states:
awe, satisfaction, and calm. We also know that Charles Car-
roll wrote about work to be done in his Annapolis garden
while he was at the Continental Congress. Thus he was
spending money, time, and thought on a garden while he was
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preparing to take a monumental risk. This is as close as I can

come now to establishing a tie between a naturalistic experi-
ment in perspective and illusion on the one hand, and on the
other, the quest for more power at a time when it was ebbing.
I believe that we have two new pieces of knowledge about
the past by denying the lopsidedness of the old epistemolo-
gical relationship of records and documents. The
manipulation of volumes in order to create visual illusions
was raised to attention and began to be demonstrated. And
second, the social use of gardens as places for using sight to
work emotions of awe and pleasure became apparent. Other
scholars in other fields may have known this, but historical
archaeologists had not said so.
The same procedure can be used on combinations of archae-
ological materials and documentary records like tableware
and etiquette, nails and smithing or carpentry, chamber pots
and sanitation, toothbrushes and personal hygiene, window
glass and light, tobacco pipes and smoking, and a dozen oth-
er categories. The procedure offers each domain of
archaeological knowledge and the domain of literary know-
ledge integrity, and thus the freedom to comment on the
other area it is paired with, once a common discriptor is
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agreed on. This eliminates the lopsided arrangement that usu-

ally exists now. The discriptor, however, must come not from
some isolated and seemingly neutral textbook context, like
the number of holes in buttons or rim shapes in pots; it needs
to come from the way the era organized an activity that in-
volved the artifacts.
We must end with the problem of how so see William Paca's
garden. Resolution and freedom are not to be expected in a
choice between the two different views. The only freedom to
hope for is in a method which seeks separate statuses for the
different records from the past. In allowing separate domains
to speak to each other, there may be a dialogue which
provides a choice of possibilities and a continual search.
At this particular point in adapting Binford's middle range re-
search to historical archaeology, I do not know whether this
is a method that can overcome the social and ideological bi-
ases in the research questions themselves. I have not
addressed that issue in this paper. Of course, I believe that we
need to know where our research questions come from in ar-
chaeology and where the structure for our answers comes
from too. That is not another matter, but here I have sugges-
Mark P. Leone 23 Historical Archaeology
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ted a way of allowing greater freedom within the range of

possible answers from within a theory-laden position.


My colleagues, Constance Crosby, Barbara Little, Parker Pot-

ter, Jr., William Stuart, and Eileen Williams, have been a very
great help in thinking through this essay. It could not have
been done without them. Paul Shackel saw the mathematical
layout of the Carroll garden and the reversed width of the ter-
races. Lewis Binford has been very helpful in talking through
middle range theory. Historic Annapolis, inc., has offered all
Its rich resources for my research, and neither it nor my col-
leagues are responsible for my errors, nor necessarily agree
with my conclusions.


1981 Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses. In Len-
in and Philosophy, pp. 127-86. Monthly Review
Press, New York.
Mark P. Leone 24 Historical Archaeology
22.1 (1988): 29-35

1981 Bones: Ancient Men and Modern Myths. Academic
Press, New York.
1983 Working at Archaeology. Academic Press, New
1987 Researching Ambiguity: Frames of Reference and
Site Structure. In Method and Theory for Activity
Area Research, edited by Susan Kent, pp. 449-512.
Columbia University Press, New York.

1982 The Transformation of Virginia 1740-1790. Univer-
sity of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill.


1986 A Map of the Ridout Garden, Annapolis, Maryland.
On file at Historic Annapolis, Inc., Annapolis, Mary-

1984 Interpreting Ideology in Historical Archaeology: Us-
ing the Rules of Perspective in the William Paca
Garden in Annapolis, Maryland. In Ideology, Power,
Mark P. Leone 25 Historical Archaeology
22.1 (1988): 29-35

and Prehistory, edited by Daniel Miller and Chris-

topher Tilley, pp. 25 -35. Cambridge University
Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
1987 Rule by Ostention: The Relationship between Space
and Sight in Eighteenth Century Landscape Archi-
tecture in the Chesapeake Region of Maryland. In
Method and Theory for Activity Area Research, ed-
ited by Susan Kent, pp. 604-33. Columbia
1984 British and American Gardens in the Eighteenth
Century. Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Willi-
amsburg, Virginia.


1987 The Mathematics of an Eighteenth-Century Wilder-
ness Garden. Journal of Garden History: 6:4: 229-
1986 Map of the Carroll Garden. Ms. on file. Historic An-
napolis, Inc., Annapolis, Maryland.
Mark P. Leone 26 Historical Archaeology
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