Frog Legs: The Other White Meat

A Wrought Iron Frog Gig Recovered in Randolph County, North Carolina

By Kerry S. González

People have been consuming frog legs for centuries. In 2013 National Geographicreported that 10,000-year-old cooked frog bones were found in England , long before the French were first documented as eating frog legs (Zuckerman 2013). According to cookbooks from the eighteenth century frog legs were part of haute cuisine in France, while in England the idea of eating frog legs “filled the British with disgust” (Zuckerman 2013). In the Americas, frog legs were an easily obtainable source of protein, provided you lived near a water source. Any source of protein was important, especially during hard times. But how do you catch frogs for consuption? Keep reading if you would like to know more. If frogs make you squeemish maybe stop reading here.

Frogs were captured using a tool known as a “gig.” The frog gig shown below was recovered from the Trogdon-Squirrel Creek site in Randolph County, North Carolina. Dovetail Cultural Resource Group conducted data recovery excavations at the site on behalf of the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT). Work was guided by the data recovery plan authored by NCDOT (Overton 2014).

The wrought iron frog gig appears to have been modified or hastily made as evidenced through an x-ray image. The gig was heat joined likely as a repair after one of the original three tines broke (pictured below). Heat joining, or forge welding, simply refers to heating two pieces of metal and joining them to create a solid bond. Frog gigs and eel gigs often have this trident shape and were used to pierce the skin of a frog or eel for capture. Frog gigging typically occurs at night when the creatures are most active but can certainly be done during the day.

Photo 1: Wrought Iron Frog Gig Recovered From Trogdon-Squirrel Creek Site. On left is an x-ray image of the frog gig and original is on right.

 

Photo 2: Wrought Iron Frog Gig From Personal Collection of D. Brad Hatch Showing Possible Original Form.

This form of gigging, also used at times to capture fish, has been used for centuries. A watercolor painting titled The Manner of Their Fishingdone by Captain John White in 1585 illustrates Native Americans using spears and traps to catch fish (White 1585) (Figure1). While the spears used in the Mid-Atlantic during White’s time were made of a combination of bone, wood, and stone, the gig-construction method varied over the course of time. As illustrated in Hooks, Rings & Other Things (1988:155–156), there were many styles of spears which varied in shape depending on time period and purpose. The multi-pronged form, such as that found at the Trogdon Squirrel Creek site, was one of the most popular.

Next time you are at a restaurant and you are trying to decide between chicken or the steak, look to see if they offer frog legs, ‘the other white meat.’

Figure 1: The Manner of Their Fishing (White 1585).

 

Figure 2: Various Styles of Frog, Fish, and Eel Spears From the Nineteenth Century (Barnes 1988).

 

 

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:

Barnes, Frank T.
1988   Hooks, Rings & Other Things. The Christopher Publishing House, Hanover, Massachusetts.

Overton, Brian
2015  Request for Proposal: Intensive Archaeological Survey and Evaluation, Asheboro U.S. 64 Bypass. North Carolina Department of Transportation, Human Environment Section, Raleigh, North Carolina.

White, John
1585   The Manner of Their Fishing. Electronic document, http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details/collection_image_gallery.aspxassetId=22109001&objectId=753504&partId=1, accessed October 2018.

Zuckerman, Catherine
2013   Frog Legs: A British Innovation? Electronic document, https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/11/131107-frog-legs-england-france-food-archaeology-britain-wiltshire-french-english-british/, accessed October 2018.

Making Stone Tools the Hardaway

Making Stone Tools the Hardaway: A Paleoindian Artifact from the Graceland Site, Randolph County, North Carolina

By Joe Blondino

It’s no surprise that archaeologists like old things. That’s why we get particularly excited when we find artifacts dating to the Paleoindian period, which spans from at least as early as 12,000 BC (Carr 2018, Carr and Adovasio 2002, Goodyear 2005) to approximately 8,000 BC (Ward and Davis 1999). This period represents the earliest occupation of North America, when people were settling into new environments that would ultimately shape the way their culture and technology evolved in different parts of the continent.

For September we will look at a Paleoindian artifact that continues our series highlighting materials recovered from the Asheboro Bypass Project in Randolph County, North Carolina. Among the sites identified during this project was the Graceland site (31RD1568). Dovetail Cultural Resource Group conducted excavations at this site on behalf of the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), guided by the Scope of Work authored by NCDOT (Overton 2015) and coordination between Dovetail, NCDOT, and the North Carolina Office of State Archaeology. The majority of the 3,661 artifacts recovered from the site date to the Morrow Mountain and Guilford phases of the Middle Archaic period, spanning a date range from approximately 5,000 to 3,000 BC (Blondino and Proper 2018). However, a Hardaway side-notched point dating to the late Paleoindian period indicates that the site was being used much earlier. Excavations at the Slade site in southeastern Virginia suggest a date range of 8,250–8,050 BC for the Hardaway phase (McAvoy and McAvoy 1997), making these points approximately 10,000 years old!

Hardaway side-notch point photo

Hardaway side-notched point from the Graceland site.

The Hardaway point from the Graceland site is made of a metavolcanic rock common to this part of North Carolina and quarried by the prehistoric occupants of the site as a material from which to make projectile points and other stone tools. The site itself is located on a slight slope near a natural drainage which channels surface water during heavy rain. As a result, there is more erosion here than in nearby areas, exposing the bedrock and making it easier to get to. The distribution of artifacts across the site suggests that people were obtaining stone from near the drainage, where it could be found closer to the surface, and then taking it up to the flatter land above to work it into tools. Prehistoric people would visit sites like this when their stone toolkit was in need of rejuvenation. Stone tools like projectile points and knives can be re-sharpened, but this process removes material, and eventually the tool is too small to be used and simply must be replaced. It is likely that this was the case with the Graceland Hardaway point. You might notice from the photograph that the point is a little lopsided- if you look at the tip of the point, it is not directly above the center of the base. This often happens because the point has been re-sharpened more on one side than on the other, perhaps because it was being used more as a knife than as a projectile point. When its owner visited the Graceland site during the late Paleoindian period, they may have made themselves a new point (or a few of them), and simply discarded this one, only to have Dovetail archaeologists find it again 10,000 years later. Now that’s doing things the Hardaway!

Graceland Excavation Site - Image

Excavations at the Graceland site. The Hardaway point was recovered from the excavation unit under the canopy on the right.

 

 

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:

Blondino, Joseph R. and Earl E. Proper
2018    Addendum: Archaeological Survey and Testing of Newly Defined Areas of Potential Effects for the Asheboro Bypass, Randolph County, North Carolina. Dovetail Cultural Resource Group, Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Carr, Kurt
2018    Peopling of the Middle Atlantic: A Review of Paleoindian Research. In Middle Atlantic Prehistory: Foundations and Practice, edited by Heather A. Wholey, and Carole L. Nash, pp. 219–260. Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, Maryland.

Carr, K.W., and J.M. Adovasio
2002    Paleoindians in Pennsylvania. In Ice Age Peoples of Pennsylvania, edited by Kurt Carr and James Adovasio, pp. 1–50. Recent Research in Pennsylvania Archaeology, No. 2. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Goodyear, Albert C.
2005    Evidence of Pre-Clovis Sites in the Eastern United States. In Paleoamerican Origins: Beyond Clovis, pp. 103–112. Center for the Study of the First Americans, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas.

McAvoy, Joseph M. and Lynn D. McAvoy
1997    Archaeological Investigations of Site 44SX202, Cactus Hill, Sussex County. Virginia Department of Historic Resources Research Report Series n. 8, Richmond, Virginia.

Overton, Brian
2015    Request for Proposal: Intensive Archaeological Survey and Evaluation, Asheboro U.S. 64 Bypass. North Carolina Department of Transportation, Human Environment Section, Raleigh, North Carolina.

Ward, H. Trawick, and R.P. Stephen Davis Jr.
1999    Time Before History: The Archaeology of North Carolina. The University of North Caroloina Press, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Turning and Burning

Turning and Burning: Locally Made Pottery from the Trogdon-Squirrel Creek Assemblage

By D. Brad Hatch

July continues our series of posts highlighting the artifacts recovered from the Trogdon-Squirrel Creek site (31Rd1426/1426**) in Randolph County, North Carolina. Dovetail Cultural Resource Group conducted data recovery excavations at this site on behalf of the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), guided by the data recovery plan authored by NCDOT (Overton 2014). Of the over 8,000 ceramic sherds recovered from the Trogdon-Squirrel Creek site, nearly half (3,826) were made in North Carolina. These locally produced wares underscore the importance of the ceramic industry to the economy of piedmont North Carolina and the reliance of residents on locally manufactured goods. This blog post focuses on some of the wares whose makers can be identified in order to illustrate the number of potters in the region and how far people would go to buy their goods. For a more detailed treatment of these ceramics click here.

Marked, or otherwise identifiable, wares from at least six different potters were identified in the collection gathered from the site (Table; Photos 1–7). Dates of production for these potters, when they were not known from historical references, were estimated by adding 20 years to their birth date and extending the span to the date of their death. While the production span for some of these wares may be slightly shorter or longer, they are probably not exceedingly different. The majority of these potters began production prior to 1850. However, most had a production range that extended through the latter half of the nineteenth century. Notably, all of these potters had kilns in Randolph County during at least some portion of their career. Jacob Craven had at least three kilns during his lifetime, one of which was in Randolph County, while the remaining two were located just south of the county line in Moore County. All of the kilns used by these potters during their periods of production were located within 14 miles (22.5 km) of the Trogdon-Squirrel Creek site and half were within 10 miles (16.1 km) (Figure).

PotterKiln LocationDate of Production
Jacob D. CravenRandolph and Moore Counties, NCca. 1847-1895
Enoch S. CravenRandolph County, NCca. 1830-1893
William N. CravenRandolph County, NC1842-1857
Nathan B. DicksRandolph County, NCca. 1875-1918
Alfred L. MoodyRandolph County, NCca. 1880-1924
Chester WebsterRandolph County, NCca. 1840-1882
Table: Identified Potters Represented in the Trogdon-Squirrel Creek Assemblage.

A brief glimpse of this extraordinary grouping of locally made ceramics from the Trogdon-Squirrel Creek site provides important insight into the development of the ceramic industry in Randolph County from approximately 1840 to the early-twentieth century, a period when the potting tradition in this region was flourishing. It also suggests that local residents were paramount in supporting these artisans throughout history, allowing potters and their families to put down roots and prosper in the region. As a result, many of the descendants of the potters identified in this assemblage still produce ceramic wares in the area and pottery production remains an important aspect of the economy in the North Carolina piedmont.

Photo 1: Locally Made Coarse Earthenware Jar Fragment with Sine Wave Decoration, Attributed to Nathan Dicks.

Photo 1: Locally Made Coarse Earthenware Jar Fragment with Sine Wave Decoration, Attributed to Nathan Dicks.

Photo 2: Locally Made Earthenware Chamber Pot with N.B. Dicks Mark.

Photo 2: Locally Made Earthenware Chamber Pot with N.B. Dicks Mark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo 3: Locally Made Stoneware Jug with W.N. Craven Mark.

Photo 3: Locally Made Stoneware Jug with W.N. Craven Mark.

Photo 4: Locally Made Stoneware Pot with E.S. Craven Mark.

Photo 4: Locally Made Stoneware Pot with E.S. Craven Mark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo 5: Locally Made Stoneware Jug or Pitcher with J.D. Craven and Capacity Mark.

Photo 5: Locally Made Stoneware Jug or Pitcher with J.D. Craven and Capacity Mark.

Photo 6: Locally Made Stoneware Vessel with A.L. Moody Mark.

Photo 6: Locally Made Stoneware Vessel with A.L. Moody Mark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo 7: Locally Made Stoneware Jug with Bird Decoration Attributed to Chester Webster.

Photo 7: Locally Made Stoneware Jug with Bird Decoration Attributed to Chester Webster.

 

Figure: Map Showing Location of Kilns for Identified Potters in Relation to the Trogdon-Squirrel Creek Site.

Figure: Map Showing Location of Kilns for Identified Potters in Relation to the Trogdon-Squirrel Creek Site.

 

Any distributions of blog content, including text or images, should reference this blog in full citation. Data contained herein is the property of Dovetail Cultural Resource Group and its affiliates.

References:

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

Check out Jefferson Patterson Park’s Diagnostic Artifacts webpage for more images of stonewares recovered from the Trogdon-Squirrel Creek Site.

Discussions with local North Carolina potters, scholars, and collectors of North Carolina pottery were instrumental in the identification of the locally produced wares from the Trogdon-Squirrel Creek site. Specifically, I would like to express my gratitude to Hal Pugh and Eleanor Minnock-Pugh of New Salem Pottery, Mary Farrell of Westmoore Pottery, and Tommy Cranford. 

More than Just Another Brick in the Wall

Featured Fragment – A Mysterious Artifact from the Squirrel Creek Site

By D. Brad Hatch, Ph.D.

This month’s blog continues our series highlighting the artifacts recovered from the Squirrel Creek site in Randolph County, North Carolina. On behalf of the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), Dovetail Cultural Resource Group conducted data recovery excavations at the site, guided by the data recovery plan authored by NCDOT (Overton 2014). The artifact discussed below initially appeared to be one of the most unassuming in the collection, but in the end, was one of the most confounding for us in terms of its use.

During the excavations around a standing stone chimney, archaeologists recovered a cast iron block measuring 8.5 inches long by 3 inches tall by 4.5 inches wide and weighing 24.5 pounds (Figure 1). This object, known in the field as the “iron brick” due to its size and shape, was discovered in a layer of fill that extended into the western hearth and appeared to have been pushed up against the chimney sometime during one of the logging episodes that occurred on the property in the twentieth century, after the site’s occupancy (Figure 2). The purpose of the object was the focus of much speculation on site and continues to be, even now.

Figure 1: Iron Block Recovered from the Squirrel Creek Site.

 

Figure 2: View of the Western Hearth where the Iron Block was Found.

Based upon its association with the hearth, several hypotheses have been put forth relating its use to heat or food. Some have suggested that it could have been used as a source of heat. Having been heated in the fire, the iron block could have been placed in a container to act as a foot, bed, or food warmer. Another hypothesis is that it could have been used a small anvil for light metal working in or around the house. Perhaps the best-documented hypotheses for the use of this object comes from one of the descendants of a previous owner of the site.

Hal Pugh is the fourth great grandson of Samuel Trogdon, who owned the property on which the site is located in the late-eighteenth century, approximately 30 years before the dwelling at the site was constructed. Mr. Pugh was consulted extensively, both during and after the excavation, due to his expertise on North Carolina pottery (more on this to come in a future post). However, when he saw the iron block, he immediately recognized a similar object passed down through his family (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Pugh Family Iron Block (Courtesy of Hal Pugh).

According to Mr. Pugh, the cast iron block in his possession is 6.25 inches long by 2.25 inches tall by 5 inches wide. This block sat “on my grandparent’s hearth… [and] they used it as a base for cracking nuts…(usually walnuts and hickory nuts). My dad said they kept it on the fireplace hearth. He said they would sit around the fire in the fireplace in the fall & winter, crack the nuts and throw the shells in the fire. When they got through any smaller fragments of nutshells left over were simply swept in the fire.”

Considering that the iron block at the Squirrel Creek site was found in the hearth as well as the familial and local connections of the block in Mr. Pugh’s collection, it seems logical that both objects served similar purposes. Unfortunately, we have not found any other examples of an object like this in North Carolina or elsewhere, so we have been unable to confirm this interpretation. It is our hope that this post has shed a little light on this unique object and the process of artifact interpretation, and it may encourage other people to come forward with similar artifacts for comparison. If you have seen one of these, please let us know (Figures 4 and 5). You can contact me at bhatch@dovetailcrg.com.

Figure 4: Pugh Family Iron Block. Dog for scale (Courtesy of Hal Pugh).

 

Figure 5: Iron Block Recovered from the Squirrel Creek Site. Dog for scale.

 

Any distributions of blog content, including text or images, should reference this blog in full citation. Data contained herein is the property of Dovetail Cultural Resource Group and its affiliates.

References: 

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