“I’ll Skip My Turn Thanks!”

Featured Fragment – Civil War-Era Tourniquet Clamp from Henrico County, Virginia

By Kerry S. González

For hundreds of years the tourniquet has been used on extremities, primarily arms and legs, in an effort to stop hemorrhaging during an amputation. For this month’s blog post we are highlighting a Civil War-era tourniquet found during a recent archaeological survey in Henrico County, Virginia.  This device is composed of cast brass with “Brinkerhoff” stamped on the handle. Leather fragments, representing the no-longer-extant strap, are present as well.

Civil War-Era Tourniquet Recovered by Dovetail Staff During a Recent Archaeological Survey in Henrico County, Virginia.

Van Wyck Brinkerhoff was a minor supplier of surgical instruments and medical sets during the Civil War and the tourniquet recovered by Dovetail was likely part of a larger set which would have included a bone saw, knives, bone forceps etc. (Echols and Arbittier 2016). The surgical set shown below (missing a tourniquet and forceps) was made by Brinkerhoff between 1860 and 1862 and illustrates the number of tools needed to perform an amputation.

Civil War-Era Brinkerhoff Amputation Set (Medical and Surgical Antiques n.d.).

According to Robert L. Mabry’s article, Tourniquet Use on the Battlefield (2006), the tourniquet is fundamentally unchanged from its original form when it was first used on the battlefield in 1674 (Mabry 2006). However, prior to this, Hans Von Gersdoff, a German surgeon, was a proponent for the use of tight bands around an amputation site, as illustrated in his book Feldtbuch der Wundtartzney (Field Book of Surgery) published in 1517 (Mabry 2006). Over the years, the tourniquet evolved as surgeons tried to find safer and more effective ways to reduce blood flow during an amputation while at the same time reducing the risk of causing nerve or tissue damage to the limb. In 1718 Jean Louis Petit created a tourniquet which included a strap and a screw device, similar to the one recovered by Dovetail, which could be tightened around the appendage thus negating the need for an assistant to hold the tourniquet in place (Welling and Rich 2012).

During the Civil War amputations were a common procedure as the Minié Ball, a widely-used bullet in rifles during the war, caused terrible damage to the body. An 1879 description gives grim details of the extent of the damages caused by these projectiles: “bones are ground almost to power muscles, ligaments, and tendons torn away, and the parts otherwise so mutilated, that loss of life, certainly of limb, is almost an inevitable consequence” (Helmuth 1879).

Approximately 60,000 amputations were performed during the Civil War, some done with no anesthesia (U.S. Library of Medicine 2013). This left soldiers fearful of the surgeons, especially the younger, more inexperienced doctors who were overly enthusiastic to perform amputations. These zealous surgeons, nicknamed “butchers” by the soldiers, were sometimes criticized by the more experienced doctors and were accused of using the battlefield as a way to improve their skills instead of having the patient’s best interest in mind (U.S. Library of Medicine 2013).

Amputation Being Performed in a Hospital Tent, Gettysburg (Tipton 1868–1925).

Unfortunately, many amputations during the Civil War resulted in infection from lack of sterilization which inevitably lead to death. Tourniquets continued to be used on and off the battlefield to help stop the flow of blood on an open wound or to perform an amputation. A historical account from World War II states that, once again, tourniquets were being misused, sometimes resulting in unnecessary amputation. “Soldiers—whether medical or non-medical—regularly misused tourniquets. They applied them unnecessarily; left them unloosened for too long; and occasionally evacuated patients with tourniquets concealed by blankets or clothing, and hence not discovered until the limb was doomed” (Welling and Rich 2012). A modern version of the tourniquet is still used today but with much greater care and awareness on the part of the medical professional administering the device.

 

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: 

Echols, Michael, and Doug Arbittier
2014    Archaeological Data Recovery Plan: Site 31Rd1426, Randolph County, North Carolina. North Carolina Department of Transportation Human Environment Section, Raleigh, North Carolina.

Helmuth, William Tod
1879   A System of Surgery. Hahnemann Publishing House, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Mabry, Robert
2006   Tourniquet Use on the Battlefield. Electronic document, https://academic.oup.com/milmed/article/171/5/352/4577893, accessed May 2018.

Medical and Surgical Antiques
n.d.   The Civil War Period Amputation and Surgical Sets Collection. Electronic document, http://medicalandsurgicalantiques.com/the-civil-war-period-collection.html, accessed May 2018.

Tipton, W.H.
1868–1925   Amputation Being Performed in a Hospital Tent, Gettysburg. Glass Negatives of ‘Tipton’s Photographic Views of the Battle of Gettysburg and other Photographs of General Interest”, 1868–1925. Available online https://catalog.archives.gov/id/520201, accessed May 2018.

U.S. Library of Medicine
2013   Maimed Men. Electronic document, https://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/lifeandlimb/maimedmen.html, accessed May 2018.

Welling, David R., and Norman M. Rich
2012   A Brief History of the Tourniquet. Electronic document, https://www.jvascsurg.org/article/S0741-5214(11)02470-0/pdf?code=ymva-site, accessed May 2018.

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.

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

 

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: 

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

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.

 

 

 

 

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:
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.

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.

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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!

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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.

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

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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.

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.