A Not So Perfect Match

Featured Fragment – Nineteenth-Century Table Settings

By D. Brad Hatch, Ph.D. and Kerry S. González

This month’s blog continues our series highlighting the artifacts recovered from the Trogdon-Squirrel Creek site in Randolph County, North Carolina. On behalf of the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), Dovetail Cultural Resource Group conducted data recovery excavations at the site, guided by the data recovery plan authored by NCDOT (Overton 2014).

The grouping of artifacts highlighted in Photo 1 were chosen to reflect ceramic consumption patterns at the site. While analyzing and processing the assemblage Dovetail staff decided to do a mock-up of a nineteenth-century table setting, mostly with artifacts recovered from the site. [Note: The kerosene lamp is a reproduction however several pieces of glass from the chimney of a similar lamp were recovered at the Trogdon-Squirrel Creek site.] The photograph below was taken in the basement of Belle Grove Plantation, birthplace of President James Madison, which provided a historically accurate setting for our recreation.

Photo 1: Nineteenth-Century Table Setting Recreated with Artifacts Recovered from the Trogdon-Squirrel Creek Site. Note blue-edged plates.

 

The primary purpose of staging this photograph was to highlight that matched sets in a table setting, like we have today, were not always the norm. What we learned from analyzing the collection was that the inhabitants of the Trogdon-Squirrel Creek site appear to have chosen decorated refined earthenwares from various decorative categories (transfer printed, hand painted, and dipt/edged wares) (Photo 2). The assemblage illustrated that there was a stronger preference for the less-expensive decorative types (edged wares) which was mixed with a lower density of more expensive ceramics that were transfer printed.

Perhaps the most important factor influencing ceramic use at the site was socioeconomic status. Based on historical and archaeological evidence, the inhabitants of the Trogdon-Squirrel Creek site appear to have been lower-middling to middling in terms of their status. In a general sense, the known status of the site occupants appears to correlate well with their respective decorative ceramic assemblages.

Photo 2: Sample of Various Decorative Motifs Recovered From Trogdon-Squirrel Creek Site. From left: brown transfer print, hand painted, and dipt.

 

The fact that many of the transfer printed vessels from the Trogdon-Squirrel Creek site were mismatched underscores the economic constraints of the site inhabitants, since they were unable to make the large capital outlays necessary to purchase full sets of these costly wares. While the majority of the transfer printed ware in the assemblage were decorated with blue ink, suggesting at least an attempt to match the color palette, there were also black, red, and brown printed vessels. Residents at the Trogdon-Squirrel Creek site do appear to have possessed matching, or at least almost matched, place settings of blue-edged wares. These cheaper wares would have been less of a financial burden, but still would have allowed the site occupants to display their knowledge of fashionable dining practices.

Keep this in mind the next time you are out shopping for new dishes. Perhaps you don’t need to worry about everything matching and instead just keep with a similar color palette. In fact, there are several articles available online that give a step by step guide on how to mismatch your tables wares which suggest picking a color or playing with different shapes.

 

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: 

Overton, Brian
2014    Archaeological Data Recovery Plan: Site 31Rd1426, Randolph County, North Carolina. North Carolina Department of Transportation Human Environment Section, Raleigh, North Carolina.

Pipes and Patriotism

Featured Fragment – Showing Irish Pride in Nineteenth Century Washington, D.C.

By Lauren McMillan, Ph.D.

For this month’s blog we have a guest author, Dr. Lauren McMillan, Assistant Professor at the University of Mary Washington and noted pipe researcher. She is going to discuss the ‘Home Rule’ tobacco pipe bowl recovered by Dovetail during a 2017 excavation in Washington, D.C.

 

“Home Rule” Pipe Recovered by Dovetail in Washington, D.C.

 

Tobacco use and its meanings in North America have evolved over the past 3,000+ years from ingestion as a religious act in the prehistoric period to the secular and habitual in the colonial and post-colonial eras. Today, smoking has a contested social meaning due to our understanding of the health risks involved with smoking, but also through a renewed (or continued) recognition among some Native American groups of the sacred nature of tobacco (Rafferty and Mann 2004; Snyder 2016). Until relatively recently, the primary way tobacco was ingested was via pipes of various forms. By the mid- to late-seventeenth century, smoking had become ubiquitous among all levels of society (Photo 1).

 

Photo 1: The Old Drinker. Showing Seventeenth Century Pipe in Gentleman’s Hand (Metsu 1663).

 

However, in the nineteenth century, pipe smoking was often associated with members of the working class (Photo 2), particularly the use of short stemmed, or “cutty,” pipes as this style of pipe could be held in the mouth by the lips alone, leaving one’s hands free to perform various tasks (Cook 1989; Fox 2016).

 

Photo 2: Old Man Smoking Pipe. Showing Nineteenth Century Pipe (Whistler 1859).

 

The pipe recovered by Dovetail in Washington, D.C.—the subject of this blog post—was stamped with a harp, clover sprigs, and the motto “Home Rule.” This type of pipe would have been mass produced in Europe and imported into the United States in the late-nineteenth century.

The Home Rule movement started in Ireland in 1870 and represented Irish independence from British Rule; this movement continued into the first two decades of the twentieth century until the passage of the Fourth Irish Home Rule Act in 1920 which gave full independence to Northern Ireland and partial rule in Southern Ireland (McCaffrey 1995). Knowledge of the Home Rule movement made its way to the United States in the late 1870s and became a prominent social and political ideology among Irish immigrants, providing a common rallying point and community bond for newly transplanted groups of people (Reckner 2001).

Clay tobacco pipes with Irish imagery of all sorts (harps, clovers, “Home Rule,” and “Erin Go Bragh”) have been recovered from archaeological sites throughout the United States, from the East Coast to the West Coast (Pheiffer 2006), but most notably in large cities in the Northeast and Middle Atlantic where there were large Irish neighborhoods in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. While these pipes can be used to easily identify the ethnicity of the people archaeologists are studying (“Irish people smoked pipes with Irish imagery”), they can also be used to form a more nuanced understanding of the social and political environment of late-nineteenth-century America. Paul Reckner (2001, 2004), in his research into political imagery on pipes recovered from Irish neighborhoods in New York and New Jersey, argues that people were purchasing and using these pipes as a way to not only demonstrate pride in their homeland, but also as a way to reject and resist nativist, anti-Irish rhetoric.

Beyond the obvious and explicit imagery on this pipe (“Home Rule,” harp, and clover), the placement of the motto and motifs also have meaning (McMillan 2015). These symbols were placed on the back of the bowl of the pipe, facing the smoker and not the outside world; this implies that the intended audience of the imagery was the smoker themself, not other people. Every time the smoker took a drag from the pipe, they would be face to face with these words and images. These symbols would have served to remind the smoker of their homeland, their political stances, and their place within a larger Irish community during a time when the Irish (and other immigrant populations) were facing discrimination and oppression in their new country. Might they have taken comfort and a renewed sense of purpose from not only the tobacco they were ingesting, but also the powerful and meaningful images placed on the pipe?

So, while you are celebrating St. Patrick’s Day this year (if you partake), think of people of Irish decent over the past several centuries who embraced Irish imagery daily as a reminder of their heritage, not just once a year.

For more information and images please visit
http://www.jefpat.org/CuratorsChoiceArchive/2013CuratorsChoice/Mar2013-ErinGoBragh-TobaccoPipesAndIrelandsStruggleForIndependence.html

 

Mr. Oldham and his Guests c.1735-45 (Joseph Highmore 1692-1780).

 

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: 

Cook, Lauren J.
1989 Tobacco-Related Material Culture and the Construction of Working Class Culture. In Interdisciplinary Investigations of the Boott Mills, Lowell, Massachusetts, Vol. III: The Boarding House System as a Way of Life, edited by Mary C. Beaudry and Stephen A. Mrozowski, pp. 209–230. Cultural Resources Management Study, No. 21, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, North Atlantic Regional Office, Boston, Massachusetts.

Metsu, Gabriel
1663 The Old Drinker. Electronic document, https://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-old-drinker-1663-gabriel-metsu.html, accessed March 2018.

Fox, Georgia L.
2016 The Archaeology of Smoking and Tobacco. The University of Press of Florida, Gainsville.

McCaffrey, Lawrence J.
1995 The Irish Question: Two Centuries of Conflict. University Press of Kentucky, Lexington.

McMillan, Lauren K.
2015 Community Formation and the Development of a British-Atlantic Identity in the Chesapeake: An Archaeological and Historical Study of the Tobacco Pipe Trade in the Potomac River Valley ca. 1630–1730. Doctoral Dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Pheiffer, Michael A.
2006 Clay Tobacco Pipes and the Fur Trade of the Pacific Northwest and Northern Plains. Phyolith Press, Ponca City, Oklahoma.

Rafferty, Sean M., and Rob Mann
2004 Introduction. In Smoking and Culture: The Archaeology of Tobacco Pipes in Eastern North American, edited by Sean M. Rafferty and Robb Mann, pp. xi–xx. The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

Reckner, Paul E.
2001 Negotiating Patriotism at the Five Points: Clay Tobacco Pipes and Patriotic Imagery among Trade Unionists and Nativists in a Nineteenth-Century New York Neighborhood. Historical Archaeology 35(3):103–114.

2004 Home Rulers, Red Hands, and Radical Journalists: Clay Pipes and the Negotiation of Working-Class Irish/Irish American Identity in Late-Nineteenth-Century Paterson, New Jersey. In Smoking and Culture: The Archaeology of Tobacco Pipes in Eastern North America, edited by Sean M. Rafferty and Rob Mann, pp. 241–271. The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

Snyder, Charles M.
2016 Restoring Traditional Tobacco Knowledge: Health Implications and Risk Factors of Tobacco Use and Nicotine Addiction. In Perspective on the Archaeology of Pipes, Tobacco and other Smoke plants in the Ancient Americas, edited by Elizabeth A. Bollwerk and Shannon Tushingham, pp. 183–198. Springer International Publishing, Switzerland.

McNeill Whistler, James
1859 Man Smoking a Pipe, circa 1859. Electronic document, https://www.wikiart.org/en/james-mcneill-whistler/man-smoking-a-pipe, accessed March 2018.

Highmore, Joseph
1735–1745 Mr. Oldham and His Guests. Electronic document, http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/highmore-mr-oldham-and-his-guests-n05864, accessed March 2018.

Let’s get ‘fired’ up!

Featured Fragment – Cast Iron Andirons

By Kerry S. González

In October 2016 Dovetail Cultural Resource Group conducted data recovery excavations at a multi-component site with the primary core representing an early-nineteenth through early-twentieth century domestic occupation (31RD1426&1426**) located in Randolph County, North Carolina. The project was completed on behalf of the North Carolina Department of Transportation, in compliance with their Data Recovery Plan, and the overall Phase III assemblage contained nearly 25,000 artifacts. This blog is the first in a series of entries highlighting the plethora and variety of objects recovered from the site.

The first artifacts discussed in this series are a pair of cast iron andirons, sometimes referred to as fire dogs. These form a matching pair but neither is complete however they mirror the pair shown in the image below.  They are in different stages of corrosion and were recovered from separate contexts approximately 20 feet apart on either side of the central chimney once associated with a standing dwelling.

Andirons Recovered From Site 31Rd1426/1426**.

 

Image Showing Complete Set of Andirons in the Same Style as Those Recovered From Site 31Rd1426/1426** (Wiles 2017).

Andirons were used in fireplaces to elevate large burning logs. This allowed oxygen to easily circulate around the logs and feed the flames, rendering a more efficiently burning fire. Because fireplaces often served two purposes, heating a room and as a heat source for cooking, it was important to have a constant fire in the hearth; this was greatly aided by the andirons.

Eastman Johnson Painting “The New Bonnet” Showing Andiron in Similar Style to the Ones Recovered From Site (The Metropolitan Museum of Art [MET] 2017).

Andirons have been used in fireplaces for centuries. For those with means, andirons were often highly embellished and served in both their utilitarian capacity and as an interior decoration.  The practice of using andirons as a canvass for artistic expression began during the medieval period when blacksmiths began adding embellishments to andirons. For example, an andiron from the fourteenth century was forged with a serpent head extending from the top (Apartment Therapy 2018). Throughout the Renaissance period and into the eighteenth century, andirons continued to be designed with motifs such as ancient Greek and Roman statuary or molded in the form of animals. An elaborate set of andirons on display at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston were reportedly used by Marie Antoinette at Hameau de la Reine, the Queen’s rustic retreat, located in the park of the Chateau de Versailles. These andirons display two goats eating grapes from a central urn. Beneath the goats is a relief of cupids and grape vines (Museum of Fine Arts Boston 2018).

French Andirons (Museum of Fine Arts Boston 2018).

While decorative andirons clearly reflected the tastes of their owners, the andirons found at site 31RD1426&1426**—although plain—speak volumes. The occupants of the site were tenant farmers who eked out a meager existence in the North Carolina Piedmont but they still sought technological items that helped to render a more efficient (and warmer!) household.

So, as you are sitting in your home this winter trying to stay warm, contemplate the possible shapes and styles of andirons and what you may have commissioned if you had the monetary freedom to do so.

 

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: 

Apartment Therapy
2018    Quick History: Andirons. Electronic document, https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/quick-history-andironsretrospe-149729, accessed January 2018.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
2017    The New Bonnet, Accession Number 25.110.11. Electronic document, https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/25.110.11/, accessed January 2018.

Museum of Fine Arts Boston
2108   French Andirons. Accession Number 27.521.1-2.11. Electronic document, http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/andiron-505383, accessed January 2018.

Wiles, Tom
2017   Repurposed fireplace andirons holds planter box. In Pinterest [Personal Page]. Electronic document, https://www.pinterest.com/pin/314266880220703842/, accessed June 2017

When Wearing a Cage Was All the Rage: Crinoline and Hoop Skirts in the 19th Century

Featured Fragment – Cage Crinoline Fragments

By Kerry S. González

In January 2017, Dovetail conducted excavations at the site of a proposed Riverfront Park in Fredericksburg, Virginia. This was the third time Dovetail visited the area along Sophia Street in downtown Fredericksburg—reflecting its abundant prehistoric and historic activity. Over 10,000 artifacts were recovered from the three separate excavations, but for this month’s blog we are highlighting the cage crinoline fragments that were recovered from a feature identified as a Civil War trench (for more on the trench see our blog from January 2017).

The cage crinoline fragments recovered during the excavations were made of an iron alloy with some fragments sheathed in a copper alloy (see below). The cage crinoline became popular in the mid-nineteenth century, and by 1856, W.S. Thomson received a patent for the metal-caged crinoline (Thomas 2014).

 

Sample of Cage Crinoline Fragments Recovered From the Riverfront Park Site.

 

The purpose of the cage crinoline was to create a structure for the fabric of a woman’s skirt that was laid over top of the structural system. This cage was constructed of wire hoops and woven tapes, and the metal wire hoops were used to create the cage “that supported the ever-widening hems without the extra weight of layered petticoats” (Rivers Cofield 2015). The hoops were held in place by white metal alloy tubes that cinched around the wire hoops. However, the space created under the skirt by the cage made pantaloons, essentially baggy pants, vital for the virtue of the wearer to remain intact as well as to help keep the legs warm.

 

Image of Circa 1858 Cage Crinoline (The Metropolitan Museum of Art 2017: Accession number C.I.45.79.10).

 

Example of Wrapped Wire Hoops and Metal Attachment Tubes (Rivers Cofield 2015).

 

The small fragments recovered from the Riverfront Park site displayed a typical composition, with the ferrous metal hoop fragments and copper alloy tubes very apparent. This type of artifact is a great example of a ‘small find’ that could be easily misidentified, especially considering the fragmentary nature of the object. It is our hope that this blog can shed some light on this type of artifact and help lead to more accurate archaeological identifications.

 

 

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: 

Victoriana Magazine
2016   The Crinoline or Hoop Skirt. Online documentation. http://www.victoriana.com/Victorian-Fashion/crinoline.htm, accessed December 2017.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
2017   Cage Crinoline, Accession Number C.I.45.79.10. Electronic document, http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/104430, accessed March 2017.

Rivers Cofield, Sara
2015   Houston-LeCompt Personal Adornment. Appendix I of the Archaeological Data Recovery at the Houston-LeCompt Site (7NC-F-139;N-14517), New Castle County, Delaware. Dovetail Cultural Resource Group, Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Thomas, Pauline W.
2014   Crinoline Fashion History. Electronic document, http://www.fashion-era.com/crinolines.htm, accessed March 2017.

A Different Kind of Shot Glass

Featured Fragment – Glass Syringe Plunger

By Joe Blondino

In June 2017, Dovetail conducted excavations on the grounds of Tudor Place, a historic Federal-style mansion in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. The excavations focused on an area immediately west of the main house known as the west service yard. This portion of the property currently contains a gazebo, ornamental arbors, a smokehouse (later used as a pigeon coop), and a patio area. Because Tudor Place staff has plans to renovate the structures and landscaping in this portion of the yard, Dovetail was asked to conduct archaeological investigations to ensure that no significant archaeological deposits would be disturbed. This was also an excellent opportunity to learn more about land use in this part of the Tudor Place property.

Among the 1,255 artifacts recovered during Dovetail’s excavations was a glass syringe plunger—the portion of a syringe that pushed liquid down the tube and through the needle or nozzle; it also helped to create the suction to draw fluid up into the body of the syringe. Prior to the 1950s, medical syringes were made of glass as opposed to the plastic examples we are used to seeing today. Kind of gives new meaning to the term “shot glass!”

 

Figure 1: Glass syringe plunger found at Tudor Place.

 

The medical use of syringes has a fairly long history, dating back to the 1st century A.D., when they are described by Celsus in his comprehensive treatise on medicine, “De Medicina.” At this time, syringes were used for suction rather than for injection, and Celsus describes using them to remove discharge from patients’ ears (Feldmann 1999). By the seventeenth century, experimentation with intravenous injections was taking place, although the equipment used was large and cumbersome compared to modern syringes, with one early apparatus described as being no more than a “quill attached to a small bladder” (Macht 1916:857). These types of devices required the doctor or surgeon to make a separate incision through which to insert the apparatus. In 1844, an Irish surgeon named Francis Rynd invented a hollow needle for hypodermic administration of drugs using a gravity-fed system, and in 1853, Alexander Wood began using hollow, pointed needles which could easily pierce the skin with little pain or bleeding. In the same year, Charles Pravaz independently developed a needle and syringe that would become the prototype for modern equivalents (Macht 1916).

 

Figure 2: A glass syringe without a needle attached (eBay 2017).

 

The question is, what is a syringe doing at Tudor Place? Well, the history of the property shows that it might not be such an unexpected find after all. It turns out that Dr. Armistead Peter operated a medical practice out of the east wing of Tudor Place from 1867 until 1882. Dr. Peter was a fairly well-known physician in Washington and, being versed in the latest medical developments and treatment procedures, would likely have used syringes like the one invented by Pravaz. During this time, one of the most common uses of syringes was for the injection of morphine and related drugs, and Dr. Peter may have used the syringe recovered by Dovetail to treat pain in one of his patients. Of course, since we don’t know for sure that this was a hypodermic syringe with a needle, it is also possible that it was used for some other purpose such as irrigating a wound or draining fluid from an infected area. Although we may never know exactly how this syringe was used or why part of the device was deposited along the edge of the west yard, this rather unusual artifact certainly injected a little excitement into our excavations!

 

Figure 3: Dr. Armistead Peter. Image courtesy of Tudor Place.

 

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: 

eBay
2017   Electronic document, http://www.ebay.com/itm/Antique-Wood-Cased-Glass-Doctor-Medical-Syringe-Glass-Plunger-Original-RARE-/142428023312, accessed July 13, 2017.

Feldmann, H.
1999   2000-year history of the ear syringe and its relationship to the enema. Images from the history of otorhinolaryngology, represented by instruments from the collection of the Ingolstadt Medical History Museum. Laryngorhinootologie 78(8):462‒467.

Macht, David I.
1916   The History of Intravenous and Subcutaneous Administration of Drugs. Journal of the American Medical Association LXVI:856‒860.

Let It Bleed: A Historical Medical Device from New Castle County, Delaware

Featured Fragment – Fleam Cover

By Kerry S. González 

In the fall of 2012 Dovetail Cultural Resource Group (Dovetail) conducted a data recovery excavation on a mid-eighteenth through late-nineteenth century domestic site (7NC-F-135/Armstrong-Rogers) in New Castle County, Delaware. The data recovery was sponsored by the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) as part of the DelDOT Route 301 study. Over 6,500 artifacts were recovered during the excavation, one of which was a copper alloy fleam cover (pictured below).

Fleam Cover From Dovetail Excavation of Site 7NC-F-135.

 

Fleams (pictured below), also known as bloodletting devices, were used in the historic medical practice of bloodletting. This instrument was a folding handheld device (much like a pocket knife) with several blades or lancets sharp enough to cut the median cubital vein at the elbow (Greenstone 2010). Once the blood flow began, a bowl known as a ‘bleeding bowl’ was placed under the arm to catch the blood.

Bloodletting as a medical practice is thought to have begun with the Egyptians around 3,000 years ago and grew in popularity throughout the centuries peaking in the nineteenth century (Greenstone 2010). During the third century B.C. a Greek physician named Erasistratus thought that all ailments stemmed from an excess of blood (Cohen 2012). By the second century A.D., Galen of Pergamum, also a Greek physician, believed that an illness was the direct result of an imbalance of the four “humors”, represented by liquids in the body, and the best way to restore balance was by bleeding (Cohen 2012). Furthermore, Pergamum believed each humor to be associated with the essential elements of air, water, earth, and fire as well as the four seasons of the year.

Blood=Air=Spring
Phlegm=Water=Winter
Black bile=Earth=Autumn
Yellow bile=Fire=Summer

Complete 5-Bladed Fleam (Ebay 2017).

 

The art of bloodletting became as ubiquitous as antibiotics are today in medieval Europe where physicians and even barbers began using the fleam, which at the time was an iron rod with a sharpened point that would get ‘hammered’ into the vein (Cohen 2012). In 1978 Saturday Night Live aired a satirical sketch (shown below) on bloodletting called “Theodoric of York: Medieval Barber.” During the sketch Theodoric orders 2 pints of blood to be removed from a sick woman stating: “Isabel is suffering from an imbalance of bodily humors” (Martin 1978). In the sketch the woman died, not unlike many real patients who were subjected to bloodletting.

 

Bloodletting continued through the years with historical figures such as Marie-Antoinette and George Washington reportedly being subjected to bloodletting. By the late-nineteenth century new medical practices were being discovered and luckily bloodletting as a treatment for all ailments became less frequent. While used today for conditions such as hemochromatosis (disorder leading to abnormal iron accumulation in organs) and polycythemia vera (stem cells bone marrow disorder causing red blood cell overproduction), we can count on never having to hear our doctor say: “you are in need of a good bleeding; let’s take 2 pints” (Greenstone 2010).

Reproduction of European Medieval Fleam and Bowl Based on Archaeological Finds at The Abbey Of Saint Eutizio, Italy (N.R.C. 2017).

 

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: 

Cohen, Jennie
2012   A Brief History of Bloodletting. Electronic documentation, http://www.history.com/news/a-brief-history-of-bloodletting, accessed June 2017

Ebay
2017   Antique Baldinelli Veterinary Blood Letting Brass Cased Fleam. Electronic documentation, http://www.ebay.com/itm/Antique-BALDINELLI-Veterinary-Blood-Letting-Brass-Cased-FLEAM-5-Blades-Tools-/282525911312, accessed June 2017.

Greenstone, Gerry MD
2010   The History of Bloodletting. British Columbia Medical Journal (BCMJ) 52(1):12‒14. Electronic documentation, http://www.bcmj.org/premise/history-bloodletting, accessed June 2017.

Martin, Steve
1978   Theodoric of York: Medieval Barber. Saturday Night Live: Season 3. Electronic document, http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/theodoric-of-york/n8661?snl=1, accessed June 2017.

N.R.C
2017   Reproduction of European medieval bloodletting and cautery tools based on archaeological finds at the abbey of Saint Eutizio, Italy. Image source: Medieval Design. In Pinterest [Personal Page]. Electronic document, https://www.pinterest.com/pin/132152570287486399/, accessed June 2017.

A is for Artifact

Featured Fragment – Marriott Alphabet Cup

By Kerry S. González and Dr. Kerri S. Barile

For this month’s blog we are reaching way back into the archives to one of Dovetail’s first large-scale projects. In early 2006, the City of Fredericksburg and the Inns of Fredericksburg LLC employed Dovetail to investigate the history of a lot on the corner of Caroline and Charlotte streets in Fredericksburg, Virginia, now the location of the Courtyard by Marriott. The study, completed over the course of several months, uncovered more than 300 years of layered occupational history, a common occurrence on urban archaeological sites (Photo 1). These included: 1) part of the foundation of Roger Dixon’s early- to mid-eighteenth-century store; 2) the rear section of the circa 1773–1832 Indian Queen Tavern; 3) a rear work area associated with the Indian Queen; 4) a late-1830s Servant Quarter built over both the eighteenth-century building and the Tavern; 5) an 1840s brick alley wall; and 6) an early-twentieth-century porch stoop. All told, over 70,000 artifacts were retrieved during Dovetail’s excavation, two of which will be highlighted in this post.

Photo 1: Overview of the Marriott Excavation Area Showing the Many Foundations Exposed During the Archaeology Study.

The two artifacts presented in this blog are from an alphabet cup, an uncommon find on archaeological sites. These two fragments represent two sides of one brown transfer print whiteware cup. Alphabet Wares were most commonly produced on plates, with cups seemingly being less favorable to potters. They were first made in England beginning in the late-eighteenth century with production continuing throughout the twentieth century (kovels.com). These vessels were made for children with the intent of teaching them their A,B,Cs. As seen in Photo 2 the alphabet letters on the cup found at the Marriott site are printed in a large, easy to read format. Alphabet Ware plates typically had decorated centers with scenes appealing to a child, such as animals or children’s activities. Cups were decorated with similar childlike motifs like the example shown in Photo 3 that depicts a lazy day on the river.

Photo 2: Alphabet Ware Cup Fragments Recovered During Marriott Excavation Decorated with a Brown Transfer Print and Daisy Motif.

 

Photo 3: Nineteenth-Century Brown Transfer Printed Cup with Boat Motif on Complete Cup Representing the Same Design on the Cup Found During the Marriott Excavations (Ebay 2017).

This semi-hands-on learning style was not unique to Alphabet Ware or even the late-eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. During medieval times and through the eighteenth century, children used what is known as a hornbook (Figure 1 and Photo 4). A hornbook was a paddle-shaped piece of wood with a piece of parchment or paper containing a lesson affixed to the board. The parchment or paper was mounted in a frame and covered with a very thin piece of horn or mica to keep the parchment intact and safe from a child’s dirty hands. The handle portion was purely to make holding the learning device easier for both the child and the instructor, be it a parent, nanny, or tutor. The lessons typically consisted of letters (sometimes both upper and lowercase) above Arabic numbers followed by the Lord’s Prayer.

According to Moya Cove (2006), the eighteenth-century learning style known as the ‘gingerbread method’ was a direct result of the phonic-based hornbook. In a move away from the monotony of learning letters from a board, teachers and parents alike strove to revive learning by making letters out of gingerbread (Cove 2006). However, years prior to making actual letters from gingerbread dough, baked goods decorated with letters were sold in open market stalls (faqs.org 2006).

Regardless of when and how children learned their letters, the idea of integrating learning into daily life and activities has remained a constant throughout history. Today, homes with children likely have more educational aides than can ever be used. And to think, 200 years ago, simple gingerbread dough and a cup with letters was more than enough. Perhaps they also practiced letters with a stick in the dirt but they certainly managed without all the bells and whistles we have in 2017.

 For more information on Alphabet Wares visit the Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland Webpage which has an excellent article on this type of ceramic and date ranges for the various styles.

Figure 1: ‘Miss Campion’ Holding a Hornbook, 1661 (thenonist.com 2003).

 

Photo 4: Typical Hornbooks (thenonist.com 2003).

 

 

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: 

Cove, Moya
2006    Sounds Familiar: The Historic of Phonics Teaching. In, Phonics: Practice, Research and Policy, edited by Maureen Lewis and Sue Ellis, pp. 105–112. Paul Chapman Publishing, Thousand Oak, California.

Ebay
2017    Staffordshire Alphabet ABC Mug. http://www.ebay.com/itm/Staffordshire-Alphabet-ABC-Mug-4-boys-and-a-row-boat-/141806025511, accessed May 2017.

faqs.org
2006    ABC Books. On-line documentation. http://www.faqs.org/childhood/A-Ar/ABC-Books.html, accessed May 2017.

Kovels.com
2011    ABC Plates; Collectors’ Concerns. http://www.kovels.com/20009070881
63/Collectors-Concerns/abc-plate.html, accessed 2011.

Thenonist.com
2003    The Humble Hornbook. On-line documentation. http://thenonist.com/index.php/
thenonist/permalink/the_humble_hornbook/, accessed May 2017.

Musical Musings

Featured Fragment – Instrument Fragments of Houston-LeCompt

By Kerry S. González

Concertina and Harmonica Reeds from Site 7NC-F-139 Top row: concertina reeds Bottom row: harmonica reeds

In the summer of 2012 Dovetail Cultural Resource Group conducted a large-scale excavation at the Houston-LeCompt site in Middletown, Delaware sponsored by the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) as part of the DelDOT Route 301 study. Thousands of artifacts were recovered, some of which have been discussed in previous blog posts (See April 2016, December 2015, and January 2015). A total of seven artifacts relating to free-reed musical instruments were recovered from the site, representing a concertina and a harmonica. The identifications of the instrument fragments were made based on size and thickness of each artifact and in consultation with professional musicians. The four harmonica fragments consist of one plate and one reed. Both concertina reed fragments have intact rivets.

Both the harmonica and concertina are small portable instruments, which likely made them more desirable to some. The harmonica is a relatively young instrument, as it was not invented until the second half of the nineteenth century in Germany. By the 1890s, the harmonica was being mass produced and sold by many catalog stores such as Sears and Roebuck (Public Broadcasting System [PBS] 2001). The concertina was developed during the early-nineteenth century. It remained popular through the nineteenth century but its allure rapidly faded during the early-twentieth century. Mass production of other instruments such as the piano and accordion aided in the decline in popularity of the concertina. Archival research has shown that the residents of the Houston-LeCompt site in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century were tenant farmers—individuals who traveled from parcel to parcel renting land and planting crops to support their family. Finding fragments of small musical instruments at the site helps archaeologists understand the sometimes-transient lifestyle of these individuals. Although they called many areas home, music often helped provide a mental break from their day-to-day activities and create a comforting sense of place.

 

concertina2

Girl in Kentucky playing the Anglo concertina, ca. 1920

 

harmonica

Harmonica player

 

 

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:

Public Broadcasting System (PBS)
2001    American Roots Series. Instruments & Innovations. Electronic document, http://www.pbs.org/americanrootsmusic/pbs_arm_ii_harmonica.html, accessed December 2014.

“I Ain’t Gonna Study War No More, Down by the Riverside….”

Featured Fragment – Archaeology in Downtown Fredericksburg

By Joe Blondino and Dr. Kerri Barile

In January 2017, the City of Fredericksburg sponsored an archaeological dig at the site of the new Riverfront Park on Sophia Street in the downtown historic district. The site (44SP0069-1) was first explored in August 2013 during preliminary studies as part of the City’s park planning initiative. The archaeological survey, conducted by Dovetail, uncovered the foundations of 14 buildings, including several 18th and 19th century homes, a pre-Civil War ice house, privies, and a possible slave quarter. A portion of the site was accidentally disturbed during area construction in the fall 2015, exposing archaeological features and human remains. The City and Dovetail conducted additional work on the site in October 2015 to conduct salvage excavations on the disturbed features. The remains of a probable antebellum slave quarter and the backyard of the circa 1750 Rowe-Goolrick House (the foundation of which is now under a nearby parking lot) were uncovered, as well as Civil War trenches and a stone boundary wall.  The Rowe-Goolrick House, like many dwellings in town, was used as a hospital during the 1862 Battle of Fredericksburg, and the human remains found during the dig may have belonged to Union soldiers who died while under treatment at the hospital. DNA analysis and other scientific techniques are currently being employed to possibly identify the lineage of the remains.

Riverfront Park site (44SP0069-1) overview

As plans for the new Riverfront Park are developed, additional archaeological work is being conducted on the site as part of the City’s commitment to historic preservation and archaeological study. Dovetail returned to the site in January 2017 to complete the excavations of the disturbance area begun in 2015. The goal was to further explore the building foundations, back yard area, and Civil War trenches that were found during the earlier work. The team also wants to assure that all human remains possibly buried in the area are removed and properly treated. As of the authoring of this blog, Dovetail has identified a section of a Civil War-era entrenchment as well as archaeological features related to the 18th century occupation of the area, such as post holes and refuse pits.

Artifacts recovered during the excavations also highlight the 18th and 19th century activities of the lot. Fragments of ceramics, nails, bottle glass, and personal items such as smoking pipe fragments and shoe buckles have been recovered. Particular artifacts of note include three Burnside carbine cartridges and a lid to a cast iron Dutch oven (pictured below). The Burnside cartridges almost certainly relate to Civil War activity on the site. The .54 caliber Burnside carbine was designed in the mid-1850s by Ambrose Burnside, who would later lead the Federal Army during the Battle of Fredericksburg. The breech-loading Burnside carbine, being relatively small and quick to load, was used primarily by Union Cavalry. However, with tens of thousands of them issued to Federal troops, they were not an uncommon weapon and captured Burnsides could have been used by Confederates as well. Although it is not definitively a military object, the Dutch oven lid is consistent with cookware that would have been used by groups of soldiers preparing and consuming communal meals.

Recovered Burnside carbine cartridges

Recovered Burnside carbine cartridges

Information gleaned from the work will be presented in a report, at public talks, and in interpretive panels to be mounted at the site as part of the park design. The success of the archaeological project relies on the teamwork of many groups—the City of Fredericksburg, Rhodeside & Harwell (park designers), Downey & Scott (construction managers), Dovetail, and others. Partnership, coordination, and communication have assured that this notable site is explored and the history of this area is shared with future generations.

Dovetail archaeologists, Stephen Mohs, uncovering a dutch oven lid

 

intact dutch oven

Example of an intact dutch oven

 

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.

Footsteps in the Attic

Featured Fragment – Salubria’s Hidden Shoe

By M. Chris Manning

100_7739

Slipper recovered by Dovetail from the attic at Salubria, a mid-eighteenth century Georgian home in Culpeper County, Virginia.

The slipper shown to the left was recovered from an ‘excavation’ in the attic at Salubria, a mid-eighteenth-century Georgian home in Culpeper County, Virginia. This shoe is believed to have been purposefully placed or concealed within the eaves during a mid-nineteenth-century renovation of the roof. The shoe dates to the early nineteenth century and is composed of woven wool with a leather backing and leather sole. Linen lined at least a portion of the shoe, although it is difficult to tell if the entire piece had a lining. Natural wear and a high degree of rodent activity have compromised much of the interior of the shoe.

In the United States, more than 250 cases of concealed shoes have been reported, almost all of which have been described as “old” or “worn,” like the shoe found at Salubria. Fireplaces, hearths, and chimneys are the most common location for concealed shoes, followed by ceilings and subfloor spaces, inside walls, and in attics and roof cavities. The majority of deposits consist of a single shoe or boot, but “families” of several unmatched shoes are also common. Statistically, a little less than half of the examples reported in the U.S. consist of children’s shoes (46 percent), and there is a fairly even distribution among the adult men’s and women’s shoes.

Several theories for shoe concealment have been proposed: a builder’s tradition, a fertility charm, a method for attracting beneficial household spirits, a means of repelling harmful spirits, witches, and demons from entering a building, and as a general good luck charm. In British and Irish folklore, shoes and clothing were believed to both attract and repel supernatural household spirits. These helpful spirits came out at night to lend a hand around the house and farm, often doing the more tedious work while the family slept. In addition to doing odd jobs, many of these spirits also acted as protectors of the family, the home, and the livestock. Although generally benign and helpful, domestic spirits had a capricious streak and liked to play pranks on members of the household. Gifts of shoes and clothes were frequently offered to placate the domestic spirits; however, for some unknown reason, some were inexplicably repelled by offerings of clothing. Numerous tales of both helpful and mischievous spirits being “laid” with a gift of clothes can be found throughout the British Isles. One literary adaptation of this belief was famously conveyed through the popular book series Harry Potter, in which Dobby the house elf is freed by the gift of an old sock.

In addition to attracting and repelling household spirits, concealed shoes may also have been used to protect the home from more nefarious supernatural beings. In the U.S., burning shoes was said to repel witches and ghosts, while shoes under the bed would keep away nightmares and nocturnal spirits. According to one account, “If someone comes to your house and you think they are a witch and you don’t want them to come in, lay an old shoe in the door; and if she is a witch, they cannot step over the shoe” (Hyatt 1935).

It was widely believed that demons, witches, and their familiars were able to enter a house through cracks, keyholes, chimneys, and other small apertures. This may be why concealed shoes are most commonly found in liminal spaces that mark the boundary between the outside world and the interior of the house, like where the Salubria shoe was found.

The shoe and other artifacts recovered during Dovetail’s Salubria ‘excavation’ ended up in the attic through a variety of human and animal activities. Items, like the shoe, were purposefully brought to the attic and concealed to protect the home from things that go bump in the night.

 

glanvill1-thumb

A 17th-century house under attack by demonic spirits and non-human beings (Glanvill 1682:frontispiece).

 

manning-postcard-cropped

Early 20th-century postcard from England, associating old shoes with horseshoes and good luck. From the collection of M. Chris Manning, used with permission.

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:

Glanvill, Joseph
1682 Saducismus Triumphatus: or, Full and Plain Evidence Concerning Witches and Apparitions, In two parts. T. Newcomb for S. Lownds, London, England. Electronic document, http://sceti.library.upenn.edu/sceti/printedbooksNew/index.cfm?TextID=glanvill_1&PagePosition=3, accessed October 2016.

Hyatt, Harry Middleton
1935 Folk-Lore from Adams County, Illinois. Alma Egan Hyatt Foundation, New York, NY.