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.

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.

Archaeological Amusement

Featured Fragment – Brandywine Springs Carousel Ring

By Bill Liebeknecht

ring_edited-1

Recovered steel carousel ring

In 1886, Richard Crook rented the Brandywine Springs facilities from the Fell family. Located west of downtown Wilmington, Delaware, Crook envisioned a resort where people would go on weekends and holidays for picnics, parties, and political rallies. Shortly thereafter, his vision shifted to using amusements to draw in the crowds from Wilmington and Philadelphia. By 1889, he had erected a restaurant and a toboggan slide in the grove down from the Chalybeate spring; by 1890, he added a merry-go-round and the amusement park was on its way (Weslager 1949:70–73). He replaced the initial merry-go-round in 1891 with an enclosed structure housing flying horses (otherwise known as a carousel) (Lawlor 2013:15). The park resembled a shore resort community complete with boardwalks and attractions.

Dovetail conducted archaeological excavations on a portion of the former resort this summer. A seemingly unappealing artifact, an iron or steel ring (pictured left), was recovered from Excavation Unit 2, Level III. This simple, steel ring is from the carousel. Riders on the outside row of animals (typically horses, but not always) could play the “Brass Ring” game. They would grab rings from the end of a wooden arm or shoot loaded with steel or iron rings and one brass ring. The rider who grabbed the brass ring was given the honor of staying on for a free ride. Steel rings taken as souvenirs have been found throughout the park, and although not a prize they are valued as mementos of days gone by (Lawlor 2013:19–20).

For more information on Brandywine Springs visit http://www.fobsde.org/

Brandywine Springs Carousel

 

Brandywine Springs Carousel at Night

 

foodstand1-large

Brandywine Springs Food Stand

 

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.

Photographs courtesy of Friends of Brandywine Springs

References:

Lawlor, Mark R
2013 Brandywine Springs Amusement Park, Echoes of the Past 1886-1923.  M and M Publishing. Wilmington, Delaware.

Weslager, C.A.
1949 Brandywine Springs, The Rise and Fall of a Delaware Resort.  Hambleton Company, Inc. Wilmington, Delaware.

Time For Tea

Featured Fragment – Mended Pearlware Tea Bowl

By Kerry S. González

Tea Bowl

Pearlware Tea Bowl

Several hundreds of years before tea was being consumed in the Americas (and even Britain), it was widely consumed in Asia. European traders residing in Asia during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries adopted the habit of daily tea drinking, and tea quickly found its way to Britain. Starting in the late-seventeenth and early-eighteenth century, tea began to be defined as “a feminized drink.” Its role in defining the domestic sphere and the concept of womanhood grew stronger as the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries wore on (Gray 2013:25). The association became so close that, eventually, women were compared to china, and “china came to stand as a metaphor for virtue” (Gray 2013:28). This same ideology was brought to the Americas, where tea quickly became a beverage staple.


The importance of tea to early American households was highlighted at the Houston-LeCompt site in New Castle County, Delaware, a site investigated on behalf of Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). A total of 107 fragments of teacups, tea saucers, and teapots was recovered from the site, serving as an indication of its roll in daily consumption patterns. The time range associated with pearlware (circa 1775−1840), the most common type of teaware recovered (n=57), likely associates these artifacts with the Houston family occupation (1780s–1820).


Decorated pearlwares from the Houston-LeCompt site exhibited a range of designs, though blue decoration predominated in different decorative patterns. The Houstons likely purchased individual pieces rather than sets of pearlware to fill out their tea set. Prior to the mid-nineteenth century, pattern books that marketed pearlware to the mid-range market illustrated designs individually, rather than as sets. Only the most elaborate, and therefore expensive, designs were marketed as sets, primarily to the upper class, and research and the archaeological investigations have proven that the Houston’s were not upper-class citizens. While it was possible to put together matching sets, it does not appear that middle-class consumers regarded matching sets as essential.


The tea bowl recovered from the Houston-LeCompt site (pictured above) is an early type of pearlware known as China Glaze with cobalt hand painting in a Chinese House motif. It is similar to the tea bowl being used in a 1725 painting entitled “An English Family at Tea” by Joseph Van Aken (pictured below). Although not all fragments from this tea bowl were recovered during the dig, the mending completed by Dovetail’s archaeological lab illustrates the vessel’s form and decoration. The pattern is a direct imitation of more expensive porcelains of the period. While the Houstons may not have assembled matching sets or imported porcelains, they still aspired to a more refined and fashionable aesthetic.

English Family At Tea

Van Aken, Joseph. An English Family at Tea. 1725.

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:

Gray, Annie
2013 ‘The Proud Air of an Unwilling Slave’: Tea, Women, and Domesticity, c. 1700–1900. Springer Publishing. New York, New York.

A Wooden Well in Action

Featured Fragment – The Armstrong-Rogers Well Pump

By Joseph Blondino and Kerry S. Gonzalez

well-image_old-lady_webpage

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

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

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

Well-Images_merge_small

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

 

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

 

 

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Time Keeps Ticking

Featured Fragment – Houston-LeCompt Site clock parts

Clocks have been an integral role in the home for centuries. Measuring time was needed for many aspects of home life but clocks were also used to display status. As Richardson Wright said in 1927, “It is said that the house of every substantial farmer in the days following the Revolution had three ornaments—a polygot bible, a tine reflector and a wooden clock” (Smith 1997). During the late-eighteenth century, people were beginning to purchase things like knives, forks, looking glasses and clocks to create the look and feel of a more gentile surrounding within their middling households (Bushman 1993). This circulation increased with great enthusiasm in the first half of the nineteenth century (Bushman 1993).

(Left) 1896 Advertisement from Oskamp Nolting & Co. Publications showing one style of Ansonia Alarm Clock (ebay 2014). (Right) Circa 1910 Ansonia Clock (National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors 2014).

(Left) 1896 Advertisement from Oskamp Nolting & Co. Publications showing one style of Ansonia Alarm Clock (ebay 2014). (Right) Circa 1910 Ansonia Clock (National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors 2014).

 

The clock parts shown below were recovered during the excavation of the Houston-LeCompt site in Delaware. These items represent various internal parts of an Ansonia alarm clock dating to the late-nineteenth through early-twentieth century. Clock parts are found on my archaeological sites although, not typically in great numbers. The high density of parts from the Houston-LeCompt site are attributed to the alarm clock possibly breaking and subsequently having its parts spread across the site.

Sample of Late-Nineteenth and Early-Twentieth Century Clock Parts from the Houston-LeCompt Site, Delaware.

Sample of Late-Nineteenth and Early-Twentieth Century Clock Parts from the Houston-LeCompt Site, Delaware.

Recovered for the Delaware Department of Transportation and the FHWA

 

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.