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.

“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

What’s Your Point?

Featured Fragment – Arrowheads, Spear Points, and Knives

By Joe Blondino 

When you think of Native American artifacts, one of the first things that probably come to mind are arrowheads. But did you know that most of the artifacts that people call “arrowheads” were not actually used on arrows? Although eastern North America has been occupied for over 13,000 years, the bow and arrow was not introduced into our region until the last 1,500 years or so. The “arrowheads” from before that time are more likely spear points, knives, or tips for atlatl (spearthrower) darts. Because it is often difficult to tell exactly what these artifacts were used for, archaeologists often refer to them as projectile points, PP/Ks (projectile point/knives), or simply as “points.” Many of these tools were probably multipurpose, serving as projectile points, knives, or whatever other kind of edged tool that was needed at the time. They were even re-sharpened like modern tools, and sometimes their use would change as they got smaller and smaller after repeated re-sharpening.

joe

Using an atlatl. The atlatl (pronounced ”at-lattle”) essentially acts as an extension of the arm. In physics terms, this makes a longer lever, which makes it possible to apply greater force to the spear or dart. The atlatl basically pushes the butt of the spear or dart with more force than could be applied with the arm alone, thus making it go farther and faster.

atlatl_final

An atlatl. The butt of the spear or dart would rest against the spur at the end of the atlatl. These spurs could be made of wood, stone, or bone, or carved into the atlatl itself.

So how do we know when we can use the term “arrowhead” properly? Fortunately, it is pretty simple! Prior to the introduction of the bow and arrow, most projectile points and knives had some form of stem or notching around the base. Archaeologists refer to this as the “hafting element” because it is what allows the point to be attached firmly to a spear shaft or knife handle. However, these hafting elements make the points too big and heavy to make good arrowheads. As a result, true arrowheads are triangular and relatively small—less than 2 inches long. The base of the triangle is often thin and concave (angled in) so that it can be inserted into a thin notch in the arrow shaft, but there is no stem or outward notch on the arrowhead itself. These triangular points are an indication of the use of the bow and arrow, and along with certain types of pottery, are one of the hallmarks of the Late Woodland Period (circa A.D. 900–1600). True arrowheads aren’t as common as you might expect them to be. If you think about it, though, it makes perfect sense—people only used them for about the last 1,500 years as opposed to the thousands of years before that when Native Americans were using the stemmed and notched points and knives that most people are used to seeing. As a result, there are a lot more stemmed and notched points in the archaeological record simply because they were used for a much longer time. So next time you see an “arrowhead,” try to figure out if it really would have been used on an arrow and, if not, think about all the other things it could have been used for!

points_final

A stemmed point (left) and a triangular point (right). The stemmed base of the point on the left would have facilitated hafting to a handle or spear shaft. Once attached, it could have been used as a projectile point or as a knife. The triangular point on the right is a true arrowhead. Its thin tip was ideal for penetrating the flesh of an animal, but wouldn’t have made a very good knife.

 

Setting the Royal Table

Featured Fragment – Queen’s Ware

By Kerry S. González

The image to the below is a creamware plate with a rim pattern known as “Royal Shape.”  Creamware was also commonly referred to as “Queen’s Ware” after its creator, Josiah Wedgwood, successfully completed a commission for this same ceramic type for Queen Charlotte in 1765 (Wedgwoodmuseum.org 2016). Upon the completion of her order, the Queen allowed Wedgwood to name his earthenware after her. Her Majesty’s order included “a complete set of tea things,” which also comprised “a dozen cups for coffee, six fruit baskets and stands, six melon preserve pots and six hand candlesticks” (Wedgwoodmuseum.org 2016). This successful delivery resulted in Wedgwood being named the official potter of the queen.

plate

Recovered Creamware Plate

With a name like “Queen’s Ware” and its obvious ties to royalty, Wedgwood’s refined cream-colored earthenware was in great demand even among nobility. According to the Wedgwood Museum, “cream coloured earthenware was so widely used for dining that people no longer referred to ‘Common pewter’ [common pewter referring to the popular pewter dinnerwares] but to ‘Common Wedgwood’ instead” (Wedgwoodmuseum.org 2016). It was a versatile ceramic, and people enjoyed all types of foods off of their new or second-hand Queen’s Ware dishes from the late-eighteenth through early-nineteenth century (see advertisement).

The plate below was found during excavations by Dovetail, conducted on behalf of Stafford County. It was located within an eighteenth-century midden in the town of Falmouth. The area is now part of John Lee Pratt Park. With its basin-like form, this plate could have been used to serve a thick soup or chicken pudding (recipe below from Randolph 1827).

 Beat ten eggs very light, add to them a quart of rich milk, with a quarter of a pound of butter melted, and some pepper and salt; stir in as much flour as will make a thin good batter; take four young chickens, and after cleaning them nicely, cut off the legs wings &c. put them all in a sauce pan, with some salt and water, and a bundle of thyme and parsley, boil them till nearly done, then take the chicken from the water and put it in the batter pour it in a dish, and bake it; send nice white gravy in a boat.

Typically, on vessels such as these, striations (deep lines cutting through the lead glaze on the surface) are visible with the naked eye. These marks are the result of repeated cutting of food and scraping in the dish; however, the plate below has almost no apparent use-wear pattern. This could suggest infrequent use or a short life span.

newspaper-advert

1770 Advertisement Discussion Queen’s Ware (The Public Advertiser 1770).

 

References:

Public Advertiser
1770 Queen’s Ware and Glasses, &c. The Public Advertiser, London, England, April 10, 1770.
https://www.newspapers.com/image/34410950/#, accessed November 2016.

Randolph, Mary
1827  The Virginia Housewife. Plaskitt, & Cugle, Baltimore, Maryland.

Wedgwoodmuseum.org
2016  The Wedgwood Museum. http://www.wedgwoodmuseum.org.uk/
learning/discovery_packs/pack/classical/chapter/queens-ware, accessed November 2016.

Footsteps in the Attic

Featured Fragment – Salubria’s Hidden Shoe

By M. Chris Manning

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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.

 

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

 

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

 

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.

History Well-Preserved

Featured Fragment – Nineteenth-Century Pickle Bottles

By Kerry González 

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Gothic Revival style shown in the design of the pickle bottle

Recent excavations by Dovetail, conducted on behalf of Stafford County, recovered two cathedral-style pickle bottles (displayed below). They were located within two separate trash pits at a Civil War-era encampment in the town of Falmouth in Stafford County, occupied between 1862 and 1863. The area is now part of Pratt Park.

Bottles such as these were often used to hold foods that had been preserved through drying, smoking, pickling, etc. (Society for Historical Archaeology [SHA] 2016). This process, developed by M. Nicolas Appert, began during the Napoleonic War era as a means to help the military store foods for longer periods of time (SHA 2016). Appert’s process, formalized in 1809, began with direct heat which killed the bacteria in the food. This was followed up by the installation of an airtight seal over the mouth of the vessel to avoid additional contamination. Oddly, scientists of the time, Appert included, did not fully understand how or why the process of heating and sealing of a container preserved perishables for long periods of time; they just knew it worked (SHA 2016).

The ornate pint-sized bottles shown here exhibit a wide mouth, which allowed for bulky and large foods, such as pickles, to be packed and removed easily. The design of the bottle features beautiful elongated cathedral windows; it is a reflection of the Gothic Revival style en vogue during the mid-nineteenth century in America (SHA 2016). This revival not only affected the style of bottles of the time but architecture as well. Houses reflective of Gothic Revival style often feature steeply pitched roofs with a central cross gable lined with decorated vergeboards (ornate trimwork lining the roof eaves), a one-story entry or full-width porch, and windows with Gothic detailing, including drip molds, pointed arch (lancet), or false shaping (McAlester 2013 267–268). Clearly it was a popular motif and one that extended to even the most seemingly ordinary of objects—the humble pickle jar.

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References:

Society for Historical Archaeology
2016 Society for Historical Archaeology Historic Glass Bottle Identification & Information Website. https://sha.org/bottle/index.htm, accessed September 2016.

McAlester,Virginia Salvage
2013 A Field Guide to American Houses. Alfred A.Knopf, New York, New York.