50th Blog!

This month celebrates our 50th blog post and in honor of this anniversary we will be revisiting our top three most-popular blogs. To see which blogs made the cut, please follow the links below.

To date, our most popular blog, reaching almost 7,000 people on Facebook with over 30 post shares, was our March 2019 post: Music to Our Ears Mouths: A Jaw Harp Found in Fredericksburg. This blog focused on an artifact that was recovered from the Riverfront Park project focusing on the utility of x-radiography as a tool for identifying highly corroded artifacts. The jaw harp was found within the interior of the brick duplex once located at the corner of Hanover and Sophia streets.

Coming in second was our January 2019 post: Coming Unglued: The Importance of Reversibility in Artifact Conservation. This blog highlighted a poorly mended, mid-nineteenth century whiteware basin with a flow blue Scinde pattern. The object was brought to the Dovetail lab by a Stafford County resident. The vessel was repaired by a family member using an unknown adhesive which was then painted black. At the request of the owner, the archaeology lab at Dovetail not only removed the non-archival adhesive used to mend the basin but also repaired the object using archivally-stable materials.

Lastly, our third most popular entry was our February 2019 blog: When Building Fragments Come Together: Foundations at the Fredericksburg Riverfront Park. This blog was the first of several that focused on the results of our January/February 2019 data recovery at the Riverfront Park. We thought we would set the scene for upcoming installments by discussing the buildings that once dotted the landscape and noting the importance of architectural studies on historic sites.

It’s easy to see that local history wins when it comes to popularity as top three blogs are quite similar! If you have a favorite blog that did not make the top three, send us your feedback!

 

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It Was Colonel Weedon With a Candlestick on Sophia Street: Another “Clue” to Fredericksburg’s Past

By Kerry S. González and D. Brad Hatch

This month we are once again highlighting an artifact recovered from our Riverfront Park excavations in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The candlestick fragment pictured below is made of brass and is typical of the late Georgian/early Federal style, popular in the late-eighteenth century. This particular candlestick has been dated to circa 1795.

It is no surprise to read that candlesticks have been used for millenia with the sole purpose of holding a candle. According to Geoffrey Wills (1974) in his book Candlesticks: “a prudent eighteenth-century lady, Mrs. Whatman, noted that the first thing a housekeeper should teach her new servant is to carry her candle upright.” While the Romans are credited with creating the wicked candle, other civilizations were using similar styles of lighting for daily use or ceremonial purposes years before (candles.org 2019). These early forms of the candlestick eventually evolved into very elaborate items often made of precious metals such as gold or silver. These expensive pieces were a sign a wealth for the upper class and were used as status symbols as much as they were for lighting.

However, candles and candlesticks were not only used for lighting. During the seventeenth century the sport of ‘candle jumping’ was quite popular and often practiced at festivals (nurseryrhymesforbabies.com 2019). It reportedly involved a young girl jumping over a lit candle with the intention of trying not to extinguish the flame (nurseryrhymesforbabies.com 2019). Candles have also played a significant role in popular culture through the ages due to their ubiquity in society, particulary before the advent of electricity. The popular nursery rhyme “Jack Be Nimble” features candle jumping and may have originated as early as the seventeenth century, in relation to the sport. The continued popularity of this rhyme helps to underscore the importance of this object in society. Indeed many people still decorate their homes with candlesticks, though their function as lighting devices has declined over the past century. Nevertheless, these familiar objects are able to provide us with important information on the lifeways of people in the past, including those that lived on and near the Riverfront site in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Fredericksburg. Recovering such an embellished object from a Fredericksburg home speaks to the possible affluence of the owner and consumer practices in our early port town.

Photo 1: Brass Candlestick Fragment Recovered From Riverfront Excavations.

Photo 2: Candle Recovered from Dovetail Excavations Beside a Complete Candlestick of the Same Style and Form (Antiques.com 2019).

References:

Antiques.com

2019    Pair of Georgian Brass Candlesticks, c. 1785. Electronic document, http://www.antiques.com/classified/Decorative-Interior/Antique-Candlesticks—Holders/Antique-Pair-of-Georgian-brass-candlesticks–C–1785?fbclid=IwAR1VbZoWa9fLSH2FjT0e7uwnAH0h3ZRfXE0NfrlKn-bLz82Rsri8QaLZeGI, accessed May 2019.

Nurseryrhymesforbabies.com

2019    The History of Jack Be Nimble. Electronic document, nurseryrhymesforbabies.com, accessed May 2019.

Wills, Geoffrey

1974    Candlesticks. Clarkson N. Potter, Inc./Publisher. New York, New York.

 

Any distributions of blog content, including text or images, should reference this blog in full citation. Data contained herein is the property of Dovetail Cultural Resource Group and its affiliates.

When Building Fragments Come Together: Foundations at the Fredericksburg Riverfront Park

By Kerri Barile

One of the most exciting finds on an archaeological site are the remains of a building or structure—evidence of people modifying their natural world to create a controlled space. Whether it is a dwelling, store, barn, or other building, the activity of using tools to create construction materials and combining these fragments to craft shelter is one of the hallmarks of humanity. During the Riverfront Park data recovery in Fredericksburg, Virginia, Dovetail Cultural Resource Group found not one but five foundations, each a unique symbol of the city’s evolution (Photo 1). The archaeological work was done at the request of the City of Fredericksburg prior to park development. This blog is the first of several that will focus on the results of our January/February 2019 data recovery at the Riverfront Park. We thought we would set the scene for upcoming installments by discussing the buildings that once dotted the landscape. Future blogs will take the next step and describe the thousands of artifacts once used by area inhabitants and recovered during this incredible dig.

Photo 1: Adriana Moss Excavates a Brick Foundation at the Riverfront Park.

The first European settlement on the Fredericksburg riverfront occurred early in the community’s history. Even before the town had a formal street system, dwellings were being erected along the riverbanks. One of the earliest was a home that we now call the Rowe-Goolrick House, located at the southern end of the proposed park. Built in the mid-eighteenth century, this two-story, three-bay home did not face today’s street grid but rather the original town ferry lane, which ceased use shortly after the home was constructed. The foundation of the house was fashioned of local Aquia sandstone, forming a basement and support system for the frame structure above. The home was demolished in 1973 to make way for a parking lot. During the Riverfront data recovery, Dovetail uncovered the northeast corner of the foundation, still in pristine condition (Photo 2). Possible original support posts were even found in place in the basement fill. Dendrochronology (tree ring dating) is being done on these supports to date these incredible building fragments.

Photo 2: The Rowe-Goolrick House in 1933 (left) (Library of Congress 1933) and the Home’s Stone Foundation (right), Found under a Parking Lot.

On the opposite side of the park, in the northern segment near Hanover Street, the team uncovered not one but two incredible foundations. Each featured handmade brick with sand temper made in wooden molds; the foundations were fastened with mud mortar. In the northwest corner was the foundation of a one-story, four-bay brick duplex at 717–719 Sophia Street built around 1780. Interestingly, this home had a central chimney that serviced both sides of the double dwelling—a feature usually seen in New England (Photo 3). In the northeast corner was the brick foundation of the circa 1832 Ferneyhough ice house, a public ice facility. This feature measured over 30 feet in length, dug into a subsoil of very dense clay (so dense that the backhoe could not penetrate the soils) (Photo 4). Excavation of this clay with hand tools to adequately lay the deep foundation would have been incredibly challenging!

Photo 3: Brick Duplex at 717–719 Sophia Street in 1927 (left) (Library of Congress 1927) and the Building’s Foundation and Central Chimney Base Uncovered During the Dig (right).

Photo 4: The West Wall of the Ferneyhough Ice House Discovered 4 Feet Below Ground.

In the middle of the park, archaeologists found the brick foundation of a postbellum home once located at 713 Sophia Street and an antebellum duplex that once stood at 701–703 Sophia Street (Photo 5). Both of these buildings had a timber-frame structural system sitting on brick, stone, and wooden pier foundations. Each was in use for only 50 to 75 years before they were demolished, reflecting the transitory nature of life along the river where repeated flooding and changing transportation needs rendered an ever-changing landscape. All of the buildings found in the park area were someone’s home, someone’s work, someone’s life. When joined, these fragments come together to tell the story of so many who once walked in our footsteps and dwelled at our doors.

Photo 5: The Fredericksburg Riverfront Park Around 1920. From left to right: brick duplex at 717–719 Sophia Street; home at 713 Sophia Street; Home at 705 Sophia Street (not excavated during current fieldwork); and wood duplex at 701–703 Sophia Street (Shibley 1976:137).

 

References:

Library of Congress

1927    Cabin, Water Street, Fredericksburg, Virginia. Frances Benjamin Johnson Collection. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2008675923/, accessed July 2013.

1933    House, 607 Sophia Street, Fredericksburg, Fredericksburg, Virginia. Historic American Building Survey. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/va0925.photos.165656p/, accessed July 2013.

Shibley, Ronald E.

1976    Historic Fredericksburg: A Pictorial History. The Donning Company/Publishers, Inc., Norfolk, Virginia.

 

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The Tines They Are A Changing

Featured Fragment – Eighteenth-Century Forks

By Kerry S. González

Dovetail Cultural Resource Group recently installed two exhibits highlighting archaeological finds on behalf of the Delaware Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration: one at the Smyrna Rest Area in Smyrna, Delaware, and the other at the Delaware Welcome Center in Newark, Delaware. The exhibits feature artifacts recovered during the excavations at the Houston-LeCompt (7NC-F-139) and Armstrong-Rogers sites (7NC-F-135).

 

Close Up of Shelf Showing Fork on Display in Houston-LeCompt Exhibit.

 

View of Armstrong-Rogers Archaeological Exhibit.

 

This month’s blog focuses on two of those artifacts, one found at each site. We are using two similar artifacts found during our excavations in Delaware to: one, shamelessly plug the recently installed artifact exhibits on the Houston-LeCompt and Armstrong-Rogers sites; and two, highlight an artifact associated with eating, which seems appropriate considering it is Thanksgiving week.

The fork recovered from the Armstrong-Rogers site consists only of the tangs and shoulders but even these seemingly insignificant attributes provided information on its date and use. Around 1770 the shoulders of a fork became more squared and less rounded, suggesting that the fork from Armstrong-Rogers predates 1770 (Dunning 2000:38). Additionally, according to Phil Dunning (2000:38), “average-quality forks began to be made with three tines, which had previously been found only on fine cutlery.” While this fork is not displayed in the exhibit on the Armstrong-Rogers site, many other artifacts are on display and highlight the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth occupation of the site.

 

Fork Recovered from the Armstrong-Rogers Site, Conserved by the MAC Lab. Image courtesy of the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab (MAC Lab).

 

The fork from the Houston-LeCompt site, which can been seen in the newly installed exhibit at the Smyrna Rest Area, is a two-tined fork with a bone handle. Based on the design of the scored bone handle and rounded shoulders, as discussed above, this fork also predates 1770 (Dunning 2000).

Fork and Scored Bone Handle Recovered from the Houston-LeCompt Site, Conserved at the MAC Lab. Image courtesy of the MAC Lab.

 

During the mid-eighteenth century, forks were gaining popularity but were not used in the same manner as today. The fork’s main role was to hold the food in place while being cut with a knife. A person would then deliver the bite-sized piece using the knife into their mouth, leaving the fork with no task other than to anchor the food. According to Ivor Noël Hume (1969), as forks became more popular at the end of the eighteenth century, the knife became more rounded, all but reversing their roles.

 

The Industrious ‘Prentice Grown Rich and Sheriff of London: Industry and Idleness (Hogarth 1747).

 

When you sit down to dinner this Holiday season and pick up your trusty three- or four-tined fork, think of how far we have come since the eighteenth century. And if your holiday travels take you through Delaware and you happen to pass by one of the above-mentioned rest areas, please stop by and take a peek at our exhibits!

http://www.visitdelaware.com/listings/smyrna-rest-stop-and-information-center/381/

http://www.visitdelaware.com/listings/delaware-welcome-center/2029/

 

Any distributions of blog content, including text or images, should reference this blog in full citation. Data contained herein is the property of Dovetail Cultural Resource Group and its affiliates.

References: 

Dunning, Phil
2000    Composite Table Cutlery from 1700 to 1930. In Studies in Material Culture, edited by Karlis  Karklin, pp. 32–45.  The Society for Historical Archaeology, California University Press, California, Pennsylvania.

Hogarth, William
1747    The Industrious ‘Prentice Grown Rich and Sheriff of London: Industry and Idleness (Plate 8). Metropolitan Museum of Art, https://www.metmuseum.org/art/
collection/search/398593, accessed November 2017.

Noël Hume, Ivor
1969    A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America. Vintage Books, New York

A Wooden Well in Action

Featured Fragment – The Armstrong-Rogers Well Pump

By Joseph Blondino and Kerry S. Gonzalez

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“Old Woman at Pump” from Picturesque Views of Rural Occupations in Early-Nineteenth Century England

During a data recovery at the Armstrong-Rogers site, a mid-eighteenth through late-nineteenth century domestic site in Delaware, Dovetail Cultural Resource Group excavated a unique well pump. The remains included several wooden components used to draw water from the well. The octagonal-shaped pump shaft or tube consisted of a hickory log approximately 7.5 feet long by 1 foot in diameter with a hole bored through its center. Two wooden “collars” roughly elliptical in shape with a hole in the center to hold the pump tube sat at the bottom of the well shaft and served as the pump seating, keeping the pump tube in place. The pump was operated by a lever that raised and lowered a valve through the pump tube which drew water through the lower portion of the wooden tube. Each pump would bring more and more water until a near-continuous flow could be easily maintained.

The imagery shown in this post displays the wooden pump positioned in the well shaft and how water was pumped through the well to reach the spigot at the ground surface. These marvelous illustrations were created by Brian Crane of Versar and sponsored by the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) as part of the DelDOT Route 301 study. DelDOT has been a notable proponent of alternative studies to thoroughly understand the materials that have resulted from the Route 301 work. This joint effort between DelDOT, Dovetail and Versar is a great example of an increased quality and quantity of data that can come from archaeologists working together. It also highlights how understanding historic technology can be a crucial component when interpreting archaeological material.

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Illustration by Brian Crane, Versar. Sponsored by the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT)

 

cutaway-valves_merge_small

Illustration by Brian Crane, Versar. Sponsored by the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT)

 

 

Any distributions of blog content, including text or images, should reference this blog in full citation. Data contained herein is the property of Dovetail Cultural Resource Group and its affiliates.

What’s in the Attic?

Featured Fragment – Archaeology in historic Salubria’s attic

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Historic Salubria

On August 23, 2011, 5.8-magnitude earthquake struck central Virginia with its epicenter in Louisa County. The earthquake caused massive damage to eighteenth-century Salubria, a Georgian home located in Culpeper County, Virginia and owned by The Memorial Foundation of the Germanna Colonies In Virginia, Inc. (The Foundation).

The damage caused by the 2011 earthquake required extensive repairs to the original roof truss system, roof cladding, and chimneys. Prior to installation of associated new attic flooring, Dovetail Cultural Resource Group, at the request of The Foundation, was hired to remove the detritus that had accumulated on the attic “floor” over the years. Because the process involved hand removal of soil, dust, and other materials through careful, controlled digging, the project was termed an “archaeological excavation” despite its location two stories above the ground surface.

Using the building’s structural system, Dovetail laid in a “grid” to divide the attic into 12 sections. All artifacts were bagged by section to examine the deposition of the artifacts. More than 12,000 artifacts were recovered from the attic, including over 350 pieces of cloth of varying size and material, nails, personal items, and paper.

Dovetail archaeologist hard at work!

Dovetail archaeologist hard at work!

The thousands of pieces of paper found in the attic are a direct reflection of both the humans who lived at Salubria and the animals who carried the goods to the attic. One of the most remarkable intact paper fragments was a personal letter from 1862! This haunting letter speaks of the first student death at Farmville Female College (Longwood University) and speaks of the demise and death of Molly Priott (see transcription below the letter).

Front of letter from the Farmville Female College.

Front of letter from the Farmville Female College.

back

Back of letter from the Farmville Female College.

 

The death of our dear Mollie is as great a shock to us as it can possibly be to you my precious friend – we did not know the poor child was sick until Sunday when we all thought she had neuralgia, at a late hour last night the Dr. pronounced her disease congestion of the brain – her mother at 10 o’clock last night, no later when I left her, did not seem to apprehend any danger – at five this morning word came to me that she was dying. I went hastily up…[unreadable]

the children, half conscious, half unconscious, of their loss. – I have just left her, little May and I being the last to look upon the loved face of mine the last kiss upon her brow. The coffin is closed and we can not see her more until we all go home where you and we will live again with our beloved.

We have service in the chapel this evening at six, and Mr. Preot goes with the corpse to Petersburg to-night. Write to Mrs. P or come to see her to-morrow. – I feel so obliged to you for your sympathy, it is the first death in our school and keenly felt by Mr. [La chonde] and myself.

I hope to see you soon. – God bless you, my dear, dear friend and be to you all He has promised. Love to you mother and the children –

Tuesday 14th Jan, 1862, Truly and fondly your friend

R…

The 12,000-plus artifacts found during the excavation shed light on the lives of the residents of Salubria. Because this type of “excavation” is rare, these fragile, perishable artifacts are typically lost. This was truly a unique and amazing, albeit filthy, experience for Dovetail!

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Dr. Kerri Barile, Dovetail’s president, after a day in the attic!

Any distributions of blog content, including text or images, should reference this blog in full citation. Data contained herein is the property of Dovetail Cultural Resource Group and its affiliates.

To learn more about Salubria, or Germanna Castle, visit http://germanna.org/.

Within the Dirt

Featured Fragment—Archeobotanical Studies

In the summer of 2014 Dovetail Cultural Resource Group conducted a Phase III excavation on a late-eighteenth century site in Fredericksburg, Virginia. While this site produced an abundance of artifacts—noteworthy on their own and the subject of a previous ‘Featured Fragment’ blog—Dovetail also recovered many non-traditional artifacts intermixed with the ceramics and glass at the site. As part of the data recovered, Dovetail collected soil samples that were analyzed by archeobotanical consultant Justine McKnight of Archeobotony. Samples were taken from all features including a borrow pit and several post holes associated with a former post-in-ground building.

One sample in particular showed that the wood from a post had rotted before it burned, indicating that the structure may have been in very poor condition by the time the site was abandoned around 1795 (McKnight 2014:8). The poor condition of the post is not surprising since it was made of white oak, which tends to be much less resistant to rot than cedar or black locust (Carson et al. 1981:156). However, white oak, from which the post was constructed, fared much better than red or black oak (Carson et al. 1981:156). The fact that a high amount of possible bark was recovered from this feature may also indicate that the post bottoms were left undressed as a form of protection against rot, which has been seen in other eighteenth-century buildings such as Cedar Park in Maryland (Carson et al. 1981:189).

The meticulous archeobotanical studies conducted by Justine McKnight with Archeobotany provided another layer of information on the site that not only told researchers the type of wood being used in the buildings, but also possibly preferred methods of construction and the demise of the dwelling.

http://www.archeobotany.com/

 

Other archeobotantical samples from the site, a peach pit and a sumac seed.

Other archeobotantical samples from the site, a peach pit and a sumac seed (front and back).

Any distributions of blog content, including text or images, should reference this blog in full citation. Data contained herein is the property of Dovetail Cultural Resource Group and its affiliates.