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/

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

Don’t Lose Your Temper Over Pottery – You Just Have to Find the Right Cord!

Featured Fragment – Prehistoric Pottery Shred

By Dr. Mike Klien

Image Showing Albermarle-Type Prehistoric Pottery.

In honor of Archaeology Month we would like to highlight this sherd of prehistoric pottery recovered by Dovetail during a survey in Southside, Virginia. This Albermarle-type prehistoric pottery has large inclusions of crushed quartz and has an impressed design on the exterior. The design was created with cords that were wrapped around a wooden paddle to create the textured surface. These characteristics indicate that it was manufactured between about 600 and 1200 A.D. It is difficult to say much more about a single sherd, but when numerous sherds are recovered from an archaeological site, pottery provides insight into the lives of the women who made the pots (as ethnographic research has shown that woman made most of the native pottery) and social relations within and between communities. The visibility of the attributes of the pots and the importance of pots as tools for cooking and storage are keys to interpreting pottery, and hence past societies.

The temper, the rock or shell that makes the clay more workable and reduces the likelihood that the pot will crack during manufacture or use, provides information about where the pot was manufactured. For example, oyster shell occurs only near the coast, while limestone is widely available in the Shenandoah Valley, but less common east of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The twist direction of the cords used to impress the pot, difficult to see in the pot itself and even in the cords without close inspection, is, like the way a person ties shoelaces, generally learned and not changed over the course of a life. Therefore, the twist mark provides insight into learning networks within and between settlements.

Image Showing Use of Wooden Paddle to Create Cord-Marked Impression on Pot (Texas Beyond History 2016).

Measurements of the curvature of the sherd reflect the size and shape of the pot. For example, straight walls, particularly near the rim, occur on wide-mouthed jars. In contrast, a narrow neck reduces ease of access, but enhances boiling for soups and stews, similar to putting a lid on a cooking pot. If charred remains occur on the sherd, the foods cooked in the pot can be identified, and radiocarbon dating (a way to determine the age of organic objects) can provide a relatively precise estimate of when the pot was manufactured and used.

Elaborate decoration typically occurs only on the rim of pots. Because there is no functional importance of the decoration, examination of decoration on many pots serves as a window into social relations within individual communities and across regions. So, while fragments of pottery are often grouped together and used to estimate the date of sites, close analysis of the individual attributes can provide insight into many aspects of life in societies.

For more detailed information on the manufacture and use of similar pots, visit these websites:

http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/villagers/cordmarked/

http://www.jefpat.org/diagnostic/PrehistoricCeramics/index-prehistoric.html

References: 

Texas Beyond History
2016 Making Cordmarked Pottery. http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/villagers/cordmarked/images/cord-main2.jpg, accessed October 2017.

The “Clear” Benefit of Bottle Glass. And Wire Nails. And Sewer Pipes….

Featured Fragment – One Person’s Trash

By Kerry S. González

One of the questions we get asked most often with our work revolves around artifact ownership. In many states, all artifacts recovered from private land during Section 106 review rightfully belong to the person who owned the property at the time they are excavated (ACHP 2009). As such, coordination with landowners is essential. Dovetail works with the landowners to assure that their artifacts are returned to them, but what is retrieved often isn’t what they expect.

The conversation with property owners usually begins like this:

Archaeologist: “Would you like to keep the artifacts found on your property or would you like to donate them to the state repository?”

Landowner: “Yes, I would like to keep them. How many whole bottles did you find? What is the collection worth?”

Archaeologist: “Actually we only found small fragments of clear glass and while the collection has research potential it does not have any monetary value.”

Landowner: “I would like to donate the collection.”

A large percentage of the population believes that during an archaeological excavation only complete objects of monetary worth are recovered. The reality is, we find and collect broken stuff. We dig up people’s trash from the past, most of which is not desirable to anyone but an archaeologist who has spent days/weeks/months digging in the dirt to find it. But as the saying goes, “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.” As archaeologists we love the broken bits and use these fragments of dishes, bottles, smoking pipes, jewelry, etc. to piece together information on the people that lived in a particular area.

Many of the artifacts we typically find date to the late-nineteenth to early-twentieth century, when large-scale commercial manufacturing allowed for faster production of items like glass, nails, and plastics. Faster and easier production meant that they were more affordable. This, in turn, made those items more readily available to consumers and thus seen as more disposable.

Typically, for this blog we like to highlight a particularly interesting object or collection of artifacts. However, in an effort to show what standard finds are during survey work, please enjoy the pictures below showing the types of artifacts we most commonly see. Are they worth a fortune? No. But are they invaluable to our understanding of our past? Absolutely….

 

Top row from left: White clay pipe stem, clear lead-glazed redware, two whiteware plate fragments. Bottom row from left, ungalvanized wire nail, machine cut nail, collection of window glass.

 

From left: Red automobile tail light fragments, clear vessel glass, and collection of clear bottle glass.

 

References: 

ACHP.gov
2017 ACHP 2009,  http://www.achp.gov/docs/ACHP%20ARCHAEOLOGY%20GUIDANCE.pdf, accessed September 2017.

History Buttoned Up

Featured Fragment – Huntley House Button

By Kerry S. González

In 2016 Dovetail conducted an archaeological excavation at the Historic Huntley House in Fairfax County, Virginia. This work was completed at the request of the Fairfax County Park Authority as part of their Huntley Tenant House Rehabilitation Project. Dovetail surveyed portions of the property surrounding the tenant house as well as the interior of the building. This was a unique case where the floorboards of the tenant house had been removed prior to the installation of new flooring, revealing the soils below the dwelling and allowing archaeological access to an often-hidden living surface. Dovetail’s excavations inside the house primarily focused on the builder’s trench (an excavated trench for the placement of a brick or stone foundation) in the southwest room of the building. Of the numerous artifacts recovered during this excavation, one was instrumental in determining a possible construction date for the building.

View of the Huntley Tenant House.

 

View of Southwestern Room of the Huntley Tenant House.

 

A copper-alloy U.S. great coat button (pictured below) was recovered from the builder’s trench within the southwest room. This coat button dates to the 1830s and 1840s and was potentially dropped by someone involved in the construction of the home. This date proved extremely useful for interpretation as the previous estimated date of construction was circa 1880.

 

1830s–1840s Great Coat Button with Inset Showing 1830s Great Coat (USHistory.com 2017).

 

The presence of this button and other artifacts suggested an antebellum construction date for the dwelling. Also key to dating the structure was the lack of Civil War-era material within the builder’s trench. The Huntley House property “was the scene of a large encampment of Union troops during the Civil War” (Bierce 2002:6; cf. also John Miner and Associates 2003:67–75). Earlier excavation near the tenant house recovered many Civil War-specific artifacts and post-1860 materials across the yard. If the tenant house were constructed after 1880, some artifacts dating to the 1860–1880 period likely would have been dug up during the building’s construction and thus end up in the builder’s trench. The builder’s trench, though, only contained artifacts that predate this period. The tenant house, therefore, potentially dates to the circa 1825–1862 Mason family ownership of the Huntley House property, rather than having been built after the Civil War, as previously thought (National Park Service 1972). This excavation, along with other studies on the property, highlights Fairfax County Park Authority’s dedication to history and the importance of having professionals present during renovations on historic properties.

References: 

Bierce, C. Richard
2002   Historic Structure Report. Schaffer, Wilson, Sarver, and Gray, Reston, Virginia.

John Milner and Associates, Inc. (JMA)
2003   Historic Huntley: Cultural Landscape Report. JMA, Charlottesville, Virginia.

National Park Service (NPS)
1972   National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. United States Department of the Interior. Electronic document, http://www.dhr.virginia.gov/registers/Counties/Fairfax/029-   0117_Huntley_1972_Final_Nomination.pdf, accessed June 2016.

USHistory.com
2017   M1832 Enlisted Greatcoat, http://www.ushist.com/mexican_war/us_military/uniforms/qm-3350_greatcoat_m1832_mexican-war-us.shtml, accessed August 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.

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).

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).

 

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.

The Size Does Matter!

Featured Fragment – Clipped Coins in Colonial America

By Kerry S. González and Mara Katkins 

Real_merge_whole coin.

Photo 1: Complete Spanish Real Similar to the One Found at 44SP0642.

For this month’s blog post, we have decided to join forces with Mara Katkins with George Washington’s Ferry Farm to showcase some of the clipped coins found in the Fredericksburg region.

In the summer of 2015 Dovetail Cultural Resource Group conducted Phase III excavations for the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Fall Hill Avenue Expansion Project in Fredericksburg, Virginia. During the excavation of site 44SP0642 a silver clipped Spanish Real (pronounced re-AL) was recovered from a borrow pit dating to 1775–1795 (Photo 1 and 2). This date range was obtained from an analysis of diagnostic artifacts, primarily ceramics, collected from the different filling episodes within the pit. The partial Real was marked with a date of 1721, years prior to the interpreted filling of the borrow pit—an indication of the value of a precious metal like silver.

A number of coins cut into segments have also been excavated at Ferry Farm, the boyhood home of George Washington (site 44ST0174) as well as from Historic Kenmore, the home of Betty Washington, sister of George Washington and wife of Fielding Lewis (site 44SP0073). The half coin pictured below (Photo 3, center) was recovered from the yard area of the first European dwelling on the Ferry Farm property, dubbed the Maurice Clark house. Clark was an indentured servant whose term was up in 1710. It appears that he had just enough time to build a 20 x 30-foot post-in-ground building on the Ferry Farm property and enjoy about six months of freedom before he died. The land was eventually purchased by the Strother’s, who built a dwelling there in 1728. The Washington family bought the parcel and moved into the house in 1738. They remained there until 1772, when George’s mother, Mary, was the last one to leave. The quarter and eighth coins pictured in Photo 3 (left and right) were recovered from the backyard area of the Washington home. A very similar coin, cut into a quarter, was excavated at Kenmore, built in the mid-1770’s.

Clipped Coin_Dtail

Photo 2: Clipped Real Recovered During Dovetail’s Excavation at Site 44SP0642. On left: obverse of clipped coin. On right: reverse of clipped coin.

The presence of Spanish coins on colonial sites is due to the pervasively contentious relationship between the colonists and the British government.  Parliament believed that the colonists should be providing Britain with precious metals instead of taking them across the ocean (Jordan 1997). In response to the dearth of available British currency, the colonists began to use foreign coins when bartering was not an option. While bartering of tobacco and wampum were generally acceptable for most exchanges, certain British exporters would only deal in silver, thus the need for other forms of currency (Jordan 1997).

Most clipped coins found on archaeological sites are quartered or halved, however even smaller divisions of coins were not uncommon (see Photo 3). Clipping silver and gold coins was a common way of making change in the colonial period as coins were made to be worth their weight in precious metals, in this case silver. It was also an easy way to make small purchases. Not only were coins clipped into sections, they were also ‘trimmed’ by removing the edges of the coin, essentially retaining some of the precious metal for future purchases. Recovering artifacts such as these clipped coins offers insight into the sometimes tumultuous economic setting of colonial and early American life in the states.

FF_Coins Final

Photo 3: Clipped Coins Recovered From George Washington’s Ferry Farm and Historic Kenmore. The center coin came from the Clark House, while the left and right coins were found in the Washington yard.

 

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

 

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.

Signed, Sealed and Delivered

Featured Fragment – A Lead Cloth Seal from John Lee Pratt Park

By Dr. D. Brad Hatch

Bale Seal

Figure 1: John and Jeremiah Naylor Lead Cloth Seal Recovered from John Lee Pratt Park

In August 2016, Dovetail conducted archaeological excavations at John Lee Pratt Park on behalf of Stafford County. During these investigations, archaeologists uncovered and excavated a late-eighteenth-century trash pit likely associated with enslaved laborers on the Chatham plantation property. Although no longer officially associated with Chatham, the land on which John Lee Pratt Park is now located was once owned by William Fitzhugh of Chatham and likely served as an agricultural field and home to enslaved plantation laborers. Hundreds of artifacts were recovered from this trash pit that provide important information on the lives of the enslaved people during the early Fitzhugh ownership of Chatham. Among these artifacts was a lead cloth, or bale, seal (Figure 1).

These lead seals were attached to bolts of cloth starting in the Middle Ages, and perhaps as early as the Roman period, to indicate the quality of textiles (Endrei and Egan 1982:47; Noël Hume 1991:269–271). Generally, archaeologists in the new world have identified two types of lead cloth seals. One type of seal that consisted of four sections attached by lead strips was often used to indicate the payment of excise duties (Noël Hume 1991:269). The other, more common, type of lead seal consisted of a round loop and lug attached by a small lead strip. When used, the lugs on the seals were clamped over the loops using a tool that could impress marks into the lead. These two-part seals could have been used to indicate the payment of excise duties, but also often carried the marks of the cloth merchants.

Figure 2

Figure 2: 1761 Joseph Vernet Painting of Loading Cloth and Other Goods for Shipment

The cloth seal recovered from the trash pit at John Lee Pratt Park is of the two-part variety, bearing the mark of cloth merchants from England. Although worn and fragmented, this cloth seal was complete enough to decipher the phrase “John and Jeremiah Naylor & Co. Wakefield,” along the loop portion. Additionally, the lug of the seal was marked with a sailing ship. John and Jeremiah Naylor were cloth merchants from Wakefield in West Yorkshire, England (Figure 2). This part of England was a major cloth producing area in the eighteenth century, and the Naylors were in operation from 1775 to 1829 (Daniels 1980:106–109). Other artifacts recovered from the trash pit suggest that this cloth seal likely dates from the first 25 years of the Naylor’s textile business.

The presence of this artifact in a trash pit associated with enslaved plantation laborers at Chatham helps to reveal the degree of access to consumer goods available to enslaved people in eighteenth-century Stafford County and the choices they made in selecting those goods. While goods, such as cloth, could have been handed down or pilfered from the manor house, it is much more likely that they were purchased by the enslaved people living at this site, perhaps from stores in nearby Fredericksburg or Falmouth. One of these stores could have been the one owned by William Allason in Falmouth, whose store ledgers indicate that he sold goods to enslaved members of the community (Martin 2008:191; Thompson 1931). Allason’s store was in operation from 1760 until the 1770s and could have been the source of the cloth represented by the lead seal.

Figure 3

Figure 3: 1853 Sketch by Lewis Miller of a Slave Dance in Lynchburg, Virginia. The blue cloth shawl and other adornment items worn by the women in this image were likely purchased from a local store.

Enslaved consumption from local stores during the late-eighteenth century was not uncommon in Virginia and much research has been conducted on enslaved consumption patterns and preferences from both archaeological and historical perspectives (Breen 2013; Heath 2004; Galle 2006; Martin 2008:173–193). Some of the most popular items purchased by enslaved people included alcohol, sweeteners, textiles, and various household goods (Heath 2004) (Figure 3). Other artifacts from the trash pit, including a wine glass stem and a fashionable creamware plate (see November 2016 post), indicate that the enslaved people at Chatham had access to these types of fashionable goods and actively sought them out. The consumer engagement among the enslaved at Chatham provided them with a more active role in shaping their material lives and identities, in addition to broadening their social networks, despite their segregation and isolation on farm quarters. These often unassuming objects excavated from enslaved contexts, like the cloth seal at John Lee Pratt Park, are able to tell the stories of everyday resistance and persistence despite the horrors and oppression of slavery.

References:
Breen, Eleanor E.
2013    The Revolution before the Revolution?: A Material Culture Approach to Consumerism at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, VA. Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Anthropology. The University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Daniels, Stephen John
1980    Moral Order and the Industrial Environment in the Woolen Textile Districts of West Yorkshire, 1780–1800. PhD Dissertation. University College of London, London, England.

Endrei, Walter, and Geoff Egan
1982    The Sealing of Cloth in Europe, with Special Reference to the English Evidence. Textile History 13(1):47–75.

Galle, Jillian E.
2006    Strategic Consumption: Archaeological Evidence for Costly Signaling among Enslaved Men and Women in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake. Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Anthropology. University of Virginia, Charlottesville.

Heath, Barbara J.
2004    Engendering Choice: Slavery and Consumerism in Central Virginia. In Engendering African American Archaeology: A Southern Perspective, edited by Jillian E. Galle and Amy L. Young, pp. 19–38. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

Martin, Ann Smart
2008    Buying into the World of Goods: Early Consumers in Backcountry Virginia. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.

Noël Hume, Ivor
1991    A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America. Reprinted from 1969. Vintage Books, New York.

Thompson, Edith E. B.
1931    A Scottish Merchant in Falmouth in the Eighteenth Century. Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 39(2):108–117.