Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Another Day Washing Dishes

The Charles County Archaeological Society returns for another day of washing artifacts:
CCAS plans to wash the artifacts obtained from the excavations done with the GWU students at Burch House last month.
Please come and join us
Sunday, November 21 if it doesn't rain
10:00 - 3:00
Port Tobacco Courthouse (on picnic tables outside)
Everyone is welcome.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

November Birthdays Round Two

Jim's birthday is so last week, so let's spend today wishing Anne a happy 25th!

Here is a shot of Anne and I in a hole at Burch House this past summer--I miss those days filled with digging, attempts to decipher wacky profiles, and the long Beltway ride home...all with Anne!

So happy birthday! I know you'll end this first quarter-century with style!


PS: This will totally be our album cover when we record "Songs to dig to!"

Friday, November 12, 2010

An Exciting Weekend!

This weekend promises to be very exciting with these 2 events:

Saturday is Jim's Birthday!
Everyone should wish him a Buon compleanno; Là breith sona dhui; ¡feliz cumpleaños; sùk wan gèrt; Halala ngosuku lokuzalwa; Yom Huledet Sameakh; Zorionak zuri; or Happy Birthday!

Sunday if it doesn't rain,
CCAS plans to wash the artifacts obtained from the excavations done with the GWU students at Burch House last month. They will meet at the Port Tobacco Courthouse (on picnic tables outside) from 10:00 - 3:00. Everyone is welcome. Click Here for more CCAS info.

Enjoy your weekend.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Thank You Volunteers!

Yesterday was a very successful day at Port Tobacco. We had a great turn out of both regular volunteers (Carol, Elsie, Calvin, Steve, Scott, Laurie, Phil, Jane, and Rich) and a dozen G.W. University students. We reopened Unit 88 and excavated 16 strata! We ended up with 2 full buckets of artifact bags. Several strata needed multiple bags to hold everything. Hopefully we can schedule an artifact washing day to process it all.

Among the artifacts were straight pins, a mule shoe, a door knob, half of a Spanish reale, half a willow ware bowl, and an initialed pipe bowl.

Stay tuned for more details on future blogs.

We will be back at Port Tobacco tomorrow to finish Unit 96 and continue Unit 88.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Just a spoonful of sugar

This amber bottle was most likely a medicinal bottle used by druggists and merchants. It held large amounts of medicine to be dispensed for customers.

It is .97 ft high and .42 ft in diameter at the base. The bottle was made in a post-bottom mold, as evidenced by the side seams, and the tooled rim is flanged.

The bottle could date anywhere from 1885 to 1900s, but small dots on the bottle, air vents from the molding process, suggest it is the later portion of the date range.

Note: We will be digging at Port Tobacco on Sunday with the George Washington University Archaeology Club from 9-3. Anyone is welcome to join.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

G&Ts for one & all

This elegantly shaped bottle is a gin bottle, shaped to be packed into a case. The rim is an applied oil finish, which dates from the 1830's to the 1920's, however the pointed corners of the base are pre-1870s. This bottle may have also held other liquors or wine.

We will be at Port Tobacco tomorrow, so come on down.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Poetical Potters

Unit 96, between the road and the Burch House, has lots of gravel in it. But it also had a piece of whiteware with a transfer print maker's mark. The ceramic was manufactured by the Homer Laughlin China Company.

Homer and Shakespeare Laughlin, two brothers from East Liverpool, Ohio, formed a partnership in 1871 to sell pottery made in the factories located in their hometown. The Laughlin Brothers built a plant on the banks of the Ohio River in 1873. By 1877, Shakespeare, the younger brother, was ready to move on to pursue other interests. The business was continued as an individual enterprise as the Homer Laughlin China Works. The business prospered through the 1880’s and became one of the better known manufacturers of ceramic dinnerware and toilet ware in the United States. They also specialize in Fiestaware. The company website has this great film of their production process from the 1930's.

The piece we have shows only a small bit of the manufacturing serial number which records the date and place of manufacture. The "N" means it was made in Newell, West Virginia. The "3" is all that is left of the date, but we know that the West Virgina plant wasn't built until 1906. Since the sherd came from Stratum 1, this date fits in just fine.

NOTE: We will be in Port Tobacco on Thursday the 21st. See you there!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sorting Sands of the Centuries

For me the month of October has been all about the Burch House. I spoke about our excavations there on Saturday at the ASM Board Meeting. In two weeks, I'll talk about the sedimentation processes at Port Tobacco, at the CNEHA Conference, focusing on soil samples taken from around the Burch House. We took column samples from 3 different units (see photo). Each stratum samples was split in half and one half analyzed, the other held for future processing. We developed the analysis procedure by trial and error and came up with a method to seperate different components in the soils:

First the sample is weighed. Then it is water screened using graduated geological screens with mesh sizes of .187 inches, .0937 inches, and .0469 inches. This removes and sorts gravel and tiny rocks from the sand and silt. The remainder is then water screened through a yogurt strainer, which is similar to cheese cloth. This catches coarse and medium sand grains. The water from the screen is collected during the process with very fine sand, silt, and clay particles in it. This is then poured through paper towels. The sand and silt remain in the paper towel; only the smallest particles escape.

In the end each stratum is divided into 5 fractions. Each fraction of the sample is weighed to determine the percentage of the entire sample it comprises. The data gathered from this method of soil characterization, when coupled with what is known about erosion processes, can tell us about the source of the sediments that were washed in and the velocity of the water that brought it.

Hopefully we will also be able to date major sedimentation events and see if they match up with archival information about catastrophic weather and the like.

We can also place the component percentages of the soils next to our own descriptions of the the soil as we excavated it, to see how they differ.

So for the rest of the month and a good part of what remains of the years, I'm going to be up to my elbows in Port Tobacco soil, literally.


NOTE: We will not be in the field tomorrow due to high chances of rain. We will go out some time later in the week. Stay tuned for updates!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Happy Birthday Pete!

Today is GAC's prodigal son's mumblemumbleth birthday! We hope he takes a few minutes from his worthy pursuit of knowledge to enjoy it.

NOTE: We will be at Port Tobacco tomorrow to finish up Unit 96.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Hello again!
Keeping with our theme of the Lawrence Collection, this brown stoneware bottle is the next bottle to be displayed here on the blog!

The bottle's dimensions are as follows: height is approx. 1', base is 3.33", inner mouth is .75", and finish (including the neck) is 1.05". The bottle's base has a straight plain twisted wire cut, sort of like the "gray and blue" stoneware jug in the Oct.4th post, but without the curved markings.

This bottle was fun to research as it was stamped with a maker's mark including the name and the location of where the bottle was manufactured (see left). Around the outer ring of the circular stamp is written "Taunus Brunnen-By Appointment", the inner area of the circle consists of a crest with feathers that are within a crown (the Prince of Wales' crest). Different crests were used by different manufacturers; I was unable to find why this one uses the Prince of Wales' crest.
Stamped beneath the circular stamp is written "J. Friedrich, Grosskarben, B/ Frankfurt A/ M" (Frankfurt am Main). During later research on the web, I found that "Gross-Karben" is a region outside of Frankfurt and near a mountain range called "Taunus"; which is known for its mineral springs. When I translated "Brunnen" into Google translate, it came up with "Fountain".

Further research concluded that the tall, slim, cylindrical shape of this bottle was used to transport mineral water and/or gin. In the case of this particular bottle, it would most likely be used for mineral water, considering the region it was manufactured in. These bottles appear to be popular for exporting from the mid-1800s to early 20th century, which is what I dated this bottle to.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Honey...I've got a headache!

Hello everybody!
Continuing with the theme of the Lawrence Collection bottles...came across this medicinal druggist bottle. The color of the bottle is aqua, and the dimensions are as follows: 9.36" tall, finish height is .80", inner mouth is .53", base is 2.47" x 1.28". Embossed on one side of the bottle is "Boykin Carmer & Co. Wholesale Druggist Baltimore".

Ignoring the fact that the bottle is embossed with a company name and location, I did basic bottle analysis. The bottle was mouth-blown into a mold (post-1865). It has a tooled "oil" finish (1830s -1920s). As most druggist bottles were, it is cup-bottom molded (1870s - early 20th century). The mold had no air vents, as I was unable to decipher any marking in the shoulders, body, base or seams (from/prior to 1885 - 1890). Using these characteristics I deduced that the bottle was dated between 1870s - 1890, due to the cup-bottom mold and the lack of air venting.

However, the embossing on the front of the bottle could lead to a more accurate date. I was unable to find a whole lot about Boykin Carmer & Co.; so, if any of you are interested in this, feel free to research more!


Monday, October 4, 2010

One Man Jug Band

This is an American gray stoneware jug. There are no makers marks, but possible date range can be determined from certain features. The overall shape is ovoid to tall ovoid, which is German in origin. The strap handle is pulled-on, meaning the clay was attached at the neck and then pulled into shape and attached to the body. The base of the jug shows how the clay was removed from the wheel with a wire (see left). The glaze is a standard salt-glaze with cobalt painted decoration, but there is no slip or glaze on the interior, which puts the date between the late 1700's to 1860. The lip is a simple rolled rim which is pre-1850. The tooled neck is longer than standard, with incising that mimics a reeded neck. Longer necks date to the 17th and 18th century. So the neck style paired with the lack of interior glaze most likely dates the jug to the late 1700s.

We will be at Port Tobacco on Thursday this week, not Tuesday.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It's a fake!

Hi All!
While going through the Scott Lawrence Collection, Anne and I came across this really unique wine bottle. It looked to be an 18th century Belgian "onion-shaped" wine bottle.

The bottle has all the characteristics of an onion shape: a height of .53', a 5.5" base, a .77" mouth hole, a .47" rim finish, the classic string rim finish (found on onion shaped bottle in the 1700s), it even has a combination pontil scar (an open pontil and sand pontil scar).

However, upon further research on SHA's website, we decided that it is a little too perfect...Just perfect enough to be a reproduction. The shape is entirely too symmetrical: the heel was even in thickness and the neck was perfectly straight. The base was also too clean looking with no signs of wear on it. Unfortunately, because it is a reproduction, dating it is virtually impossible.


Also, we will be at Port Tobacco tomorrow, Wednesday, starting a new unit next to the Burch House!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Whatever he's got, they should bottle it.

Today Alyssa and I began cataloging the Scott Lawrence Collection. Scott generously donated 30 glass and stoneware bottles to PTAP. As we research each bottle, using the SHA website, we will report back to you, our faithful readers.

Today's bottle is a large one, 1.14 ft high and 0.48 ft in diameter at the base. It likely held soda water or mineral water.
It has a cup-bottom mold seams that run from the base and fade away at the neck. The rim finish was applied by hand. The lack of air vent marks narrows the manufacture date to the 1880's.

Stay tuned for more from The Lawrence Collection!

Due to weather, we will not be at Port Tobacco tomorrow. We are shooting for Wednesday instead.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wading through a Sea of Buttons

The wooded unit behind the Burch House has given up another interesting little artifact. From Stratum 1 comes this copper alloy button! Despite lengthy online research, we can't seem to find a similar button. This one is stamped and pierced, but the details are etched in by hand. The button's diameter is 17.5 mm.
Stamped pierced buttons were popular during the Victorian era. The decoration may be a fleur de lis, gathered plants, or feathers. If you have a good button book and see this little darling, let us know!

~Anne and Alyssa~

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fancy a Haircut?

While doing the normal lab work of washing and cataloging artifacts, I came upon a cool find…Scissors! This then made me want to know exactly how old these scissors are, and maybe get a brief history lesson of scissors in as well.

I did a little web research and found numerous articles that date scissors back to our pyramid-building friends in Egypt around 1500 BCE. At this time, they were but a single piece of bronze metal formed into a U shape in which either side was sharpened into blades. The curve of the U acted as a spring in which to push the sharp blades together in order to cut (think of grilling tongs).

The cross-blade scissors are attributed to the Romans around 100 AD. These scissors were essentially shears, used more for sheep and gardens. Ivor Noël Hume mentions in Artifacts of Colonial America, that these types of shears were used onward into the early 17th century. These big chunky shears were anchored together in the middle by a rivet and two washers on either side of the blades.

So how old are the scissors found in Unit 95, Stratum 2 behind the Burch House? Drum roll please…We believe they are mid-17th – early 18th centuries. This is due to the fact that the axis for the rivet is well below the eyelet handles. Furthermore, the handles themselves are thin and curve up and outward back into themselves, which is typical in mid-17th century scissors.

That’s all for now!

We will be at Port Tobacco tomorrow, behind the Burch House. See you there!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Alyssa Marizan

For this week's blog, I would like to introduce myself as the newest member of the GAC team!

My name is Alyssa Marizan; I grew up as a typical military brat...around the world...however, I consider Alaska home (even though my family is technically from Guam)...

I started my college career at the University of Alaska Anchorage, getting a two-year Associates Degree. I finished my undergrad at George Mason University, getting a B.A. in Anthropology in 2008. Since then, I worked at Mount Vernon; where I met the lovely Anne Hayward! I joined the GAC team the day after Labor Day. Jim has put me to work immediately: excavating, cataloging, mapping in AutoCAD, blogging. He also has me focusing on what it is about archaeology I'm interested in.

Apart from archaeology, I spend time with my wonderful husband, Marvin, and our "she-devil" dog, Annie. We just got married this past March and are loving married life. I also enjoy traveling, singing, reading, and other leisurely activities...Who doesn't!?

As for future plans, I would like to continue my education in archaeology by going to grad school within the next two years.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Midwest Historical Archaeology Conference

A slight departure from the usual posts...

The 6th annual Midwest Historical Archaeology Conference will take place Saturday October 9th on the campus of Heidelberg University, Tiffin, Ohio.

The conference will feature 4 invited speakers who will give presentations on their research into the archaeology of conflict. Topics include an Indian trading post, the American Revolution, and the American Civil War. A fifth guest speaker will give an evening lecture on the excavation of mass graves from the Spanish Civil War.

Submissions are being accepted for poster presentations on any aspect of historical archaeology. Student submissions will be entered into a student poster prize to be voted on by attendees. Winners will receive a cash award.

A series of small roundtable discussions will provide opportunities for individuals with similar research interests and career goals to interact. These discussions will be led by experts in each area.

All attendees must register for the conference. The cost is $20 per person. Undergraduate students can register for $15 if they include a copy of their student ID with their registration materials. This cost includes a catered lunch and morning coffee/tea. The deadline to register is Monday, September 20th. The deadline to submit poster titles and abstracts is Friday, September 17th.

Additional details and registration forms are available at:

Please send questions and poster submissions to

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Yep, got it!

I am confident that I know the approximate location of the Atzerodt Brothers carriage factory. Their 1857 advertisement in The Port Tobacco Times places the shop opposite the dwelling of Dr. Neale, and that is roughly on the east side of Main Street and High Street (see map) and includes the Hamilton lot and a portion of the lot immediately to the north.

This is the lot on which Griffin Carter operated his vehicle shop from at least as early 1842. Blacksmith Charles E. Wade probably succeeded Griffin, after the Atzerodts ceased operations, first working briefly for Carter than acquiring the operation for himself. Given widespread changes in industrial production after the Civil War, and especially in the mass-production of wheeled vehicles, Wade probably did little in the way of manufacturing and increasingly concerned himself with repairs.

If I'm correct, the Carter-Atzerodt shop is on the land of the Wade family, just south of the house in which they now live. There is no evidence pointing to the Atzerodts' shop, or any other shop, behind the Chimney house.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Atzerodt Carriage Shop Site Suspected!

Readers will note from previous postings that we have looked for the carriage shop and house of Lincoln conspirator George A. Atzerodt. Previously the team focused on the land immediately behind the Barnes-Compton, or Chimney, House. The reason for doing so was a sketch and remark made by George Townsend in his 1865 book on the assassination of President Lincoln. We had reason to question the veracity of the sketch, April having pointed out several inconsistencies.

Today, while working on our final report for the Preserve America grant, which funded our exploration of Civil War era Port Tobacco, I put together several bits of information that resulted in the formulation of a hypothesis: the Atzerodt carriage shop and the house in which George Atzerodt lived with Mrs. Elizabeth Wheeler might have been leased from wheelwright Griffin Carter, and that property lies on the east side of Chapel Point Road, where we have not undertaken any archaeological investigations, directly across from the road that runs west to the courthouse.

There were three individuals listed for Port Tobacco in the 1860 census engaged in the horse-drawn vehicle trade, and three others in the 1870 census. Only two (Griffin Carter and Charles E. Wade) owned land and their holdings included the Hamilton lot (a portion of the subsequently named Dr. Neale lot) from as early as 1842 until 1895. It is possible, and even likely, that Rufus Vincent, John E. Daily, and Charles E. Wade worked for Carter, and subsequently (by 1870) Washington Pye and Ralph H. Way worked for Wade, Carter having died by 1866. If true, the Atzerodts may have leased the carriage and wheelwright shop in 1857 from the then 52-year-old Carter. All of the deeds from 1852 onward note that the lot was situated on the east side of the road that runs south to north through the village, with the lot of the late William Boswell on the north and most of the east side, and the lot of John Hamilton on the south and part of the east side. The 1852 deed also places the lot “under the hill at the head of the street running east from the courthouse” (Land Records RHM 1/401, May 4, 1852).

This chain of title is partial and may include errors, especially because Lot 59 was divided and conveyed in small portions; e.g. Land Record JHC1/450, dated October 1, 1860, wherein Griffin Carter conveyed a northern strip of his houselot to Dr. Bennett Neale whose houselot bordered the north line of Carter’s houselot. The chain of title is integral to the proposition that Griffin Carter’s house and shop were on the east side of Chapel Point Road opposite the road that leads directly east of the courthouse (shifted slightly since the 1970s). Other archival data might be sought to determine whether the Atzerodts had leased Carter’s shop between 1857 and 1859.
, and, of course, archaeological survey should uncover the remains of 19th-century vehicle making and repair.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Westward Expansion

Greetings from Denver!
It was a long road trip out here but I arrived mid week and have been unpacking and settling in to my new apartment...and doing some sightseeing too!

Here's some highlights and photos!
BBQ road trip:Lexington KY - Billy's BBQ...averageOwensboro KY - Moonlite BBQ Inn...buffet style and very good
St. Louis, MO - Pappy's favorite!
Kansas City, MO - Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue...not what you would expect but very good!

While in Kentucky we visited the Maker's Mark Distillery. We did a tour and of course went to the tasting room! Oh's in the middle of nowhere!
We also went up to the top of the Arch in St. Louis! Great views but nothing compared to Mt Evans in Colorado. About 2 hours west of Denver is the highest paved road in America at 14,130ft! A hair-raising drive up and around a narrow road with no guardrails! Summit Lake is about 1000ft lower and was absolutely gorgeous:

It was cold and windy that high up and we did get a little lightheaded and short of breath but it was absolutely worth it.

Classes don't start for another week but I have lots of work to do to get ready. I'll try and update on the happenings of the "GAC Denver office" when I can.

Monday, August 30, 2010

New Online Data Source

Anne and I will be working at the Burch house tomorrow (Tuesday). Do join us.

Cathy Thompson forwarded to me the link below. It is for the Richmond Daily Dispatch. This newspaper provides material during the critical Civil War years, a period for which few issues of the Port Tobacco Times survive. I'm drilling through for 'Port Tobacco,' but other keywords may also provide useful material. We'll add this material to our Port Tobacco Times digital database.

Thank you Cathy!

No news yet on Pete's great adventure to Denver. He should arrive in a couple of days.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Note to my Fans...

It's the end of my last day with Jim and crew at GAC and I thought I would take this time to reflect on the past three years with GAC and with PTAP.

It was a hot and muggy (typical) August day in 2007 that I started working with Jim. It was a project down in Brandywine with 90% humidity on a 100 degree day. We were surveying a wooded lot with poison ivy everywhere and briars taller than I. It was also my first introduction to Scott. Somehow I managed through the day and despite better judgement (haha) I came back again the next day!

Since that day I have worked on numerous CRM projects with Jim and have been heavily involved with PTAP on many levels. An ongoing shovel test survey, surface collection and two field sessions later, I can say that Port Tobacco has become like a second home to me and the people I have met and worked with there like family.

I was a wide-eye "rookie" when I started but Jim and everyone involved with GAC and PTAP have helped me grow as a professional and as a person.

I hope to continue the great work PTAP has done in graduate school and beyond.

I truly am grateful for my time here. I will miss you all.

So until we meet again in the field, at a conference, in a bar, or's time to say goodbye!

With great admiration and affection,

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

New Report Released

Well, the report on the 2009 field session at Port Tobacco with the Archeological Society of Maryland was new last December. Having heard no requests for revision, I decided it was high time to post the report on the web. April kindly accommodated yesterday.

Readers can download a PDF file of the report from the Society of Restore Tobacco website at:

or just go to, click on Download, and select the December 2009 report, or any of the other four or five reports that we have posted to date.

The PTAP team will be at the Burch House today, dodging rain drops. Do join us.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Unbridled Buffoonery

Yes folks, Laurie and I got married last month and we had a small party at our house in Park Hall last weekend. We even had some of the PTAP crew on hand.

Left to right: The Dynamic Bonnie Persinger, Jim, The Oh-So-Lovely Anne Hayward, and me with a face full of food.

We had a wonderful evening and are glad that some of the PTAP folks could celebrate with us. Laurie and I look forward to seeing many of you again in Port Tobacco!

This is Laurie and I from a while back. I couldn't find any pictures from the party with both of us together that would be acceptable on this forum, but as you can see, I am a very lucky man!

PS. The PTAP team will be at the Burch House tomorrow. This will be the last opportunity to see Pete who is off to the University of Denver at the end of the week.

Friday, August 20, 2010


What have we here? This copper alloy object was found at Burch House recently. It is decorative, possible a clasp or brooch with a flower applique. It first appeared to be in one piece when it came out of the ground, but the flower center quickly separated from the base. The back of the piece (below) shows a band for something (leather strap? ribbon?) to slide under. So, does anyone know whaazit?


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Greetings from Williamsburg!


I know I've hardly been gone, but I thought that I would send a little Williamsburg update to the PTAP team (whether you all want to hear from me or not)! I settled myself into a lovely apartment an easy 10 minute bicycle ride from campus, and have spent the past few days soaking up all Colonial Williamsburg has to offer before I am buried in books and assignments. As a William and Mary student I have access to all of the exhibits, and boy it is easy to fill up a day!

In order to make this blog a little bit more relevant I thought I would highlight my trip to the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. This place has enough intact ceramic pieces to make any archaeologist's mouth water! Here are a couple of choice pieces that I thought you folks may be interested in. Please click on the picture for a close-up.

This fine brown stoneware mug with silver-gilt lid belonged to John Winthrop, one of the first governors of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The mug was made sometime between 1550 and 1557 in Germany, and it traveled with Winthrop to America in 1630 after he inherited it from his father.

Winthrop's mug is actually part of a larger exhibit on stoneware at the museum right now. Displays were filled with Rhenish Brown jugs with molded faces, Nottingham teapots, elaborately designed Westerwald vessels, and more! The guy on the left was certainly one of my favorites, as was the vessel to the right that portrays a scene from a peasant wedding. Neat!

Of course, earthenware and porcelain lovers would find plenty in the other exhibits. Some of these pieces should look familiar...remember that blog on the Melon teapot? The style really was that popular! This tureen was one of the museum's favorite pieces. It is creamware of the Whieldon-type and was made in Staffordshire in 1760.

This melon was not alone, as the design was part of the larger movement of decorating in the rococo style. I found this corn-cob teapot, a little melon teapot with raised political scenes, and more!

I have clearly gone on long enough, but I hope you all found some of these pieces interesting-I know I did. I assure you that I have not only been hanging out in museums, but have been enjoying the musical demonstrations, folk art, building tours, lectures, and even a speech by Thomas Jefferson. Oh yes, and I have dedicated time to learning the campus, investigating classes, and preparing for school (don't worry Jim, I'm not just site-seeing). So that's all for now, but if any of you think you'll be in the Williamsburg area in the near future be in touch!


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Search for GRB

Jim was recently contacted by Sue Hodes, a descendant of Dr. Gustavus Richard Brown II, of Port Tobacco. She was interested in finding a portrait of Dr. Brown and acquired a copy of an unsigned painting from the Mount Vernon Ladies Association with the inscription "G. Washington in his last Illness attended by Docrs. Craik and Brown". The style of the painting dates to the period of Washington's death in 1799, but it is likely the tableau is fanciful, rather than factual (Note Washington lacks a lower body, though he died of complications from an acute respiratory ailment).

During the 2009 field session, we recovered a wine bottle seal with the letters "GRB." We think it likely that the seal belonged to Dr. Brown, since he had the means to personalized wine shipments. Click here to read a previous blog entry about Dr. B.


Monday, August 16, 2010

New Finds

Just a brief note today. I was at Burch House today with Pete, Anne, and Carol. We are getting down to small details around the house and trying to figure out the stratigraphic sequence and the extent of the prehistoric component that underlies the historic deposits.

Pete excavated two small posthole and mold complexes that look like the scaffolding postholes that I documented at the 17th-century Patuxent Point sites. These are small (< 1 ft long) rectangular or square holes with circular mold. They would have been used to secure scaffolding in the ground while raising, siding, and roofing a structure.

Because of weather and other commitments, we do not expect to be out the remainder of this week.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

PTAP Family Grows

Like any family, the PTAP team perpetually changes as we adopt new members and those close to our hearts go off in search of their futures.

In the past month, Scott Lawrence (pictured center) married Laurie Ward. Laurie (now calling herself Laurie Lawrence) has been volunteering with the team for about a year and a half by my reckoning. Congratulations to both.

Kelley Walter (pictured right), who joined the GAC staff after volunteering with PTAP in May of last year, is off to graduate school at the College of William & Mary. She remains, and always will be, part of the team and the PTAP family. Marking her departure is the acceptance for publication in Maryland Archeology by Dennis Curry, editor, of a paper on Middle Archaic sites prepared by Kelley, Peter, and Anne. Congratulations to all three on what I expect will be a steady production of published scholarly papers.

Peter (pictured right) is off to the University of Denver in two weeks. Pete has been with me for three years, the longest of my three 'kids.' I'll miss him, but expect him to remain a part of the PTAP family.

Anne (pictured left in first photograph) will remain onboard helping me to rebuild the team. We have one new person whom one of us will introduce in a posting next month.

Change is difficult, but good. I look forward to continued good times and rewarding research with the entire PTAP family, wherever their futures take them.


Friday, August 13, 2010

A Mending we will go!

Yesterday Anne told us how much she loves to mend artifacts and that we have had many to mend from the excavations at the Burch House.'s a new old set of dishes from the site! It's a matching transfer print pearlware plate and mug! This mending job was quite easy as the two were only broken in half. Part of the mug is missing, maybe we'll find it again, maybe we won't.

There is a maker's mark on the back of the plate reading "Lanthus C. & W.K.H.". Here's a picture:

Unfortunately we have yet to find a match online. I believe Kelley might know the answer but we'll have to see if she chimes in now that she is off at William and Mary.

And of course if anyone else out there can identify the mark, we would be very appreciative.

**Burch House Fieldwork** We will be at Burch House on Monday next week (8/16). See you there!

- Peter

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Making Sense of Pieces

Mending is one of my favorite things to do. We use a glue that will dissolve with acetone if need be and a sand box to support drying artifacts.

The units around the Burch House have yielded a large number of mendable artifacts. Usually we can fit 2 or 3 sherds together, but lately we have been reassembling nearly complete vessels! The stoneware pan is one example. The finished product has only 2 little spaces for missing sherds.

This wine bottle was a bit more difficult, since the glass is thin in places, but it was worth it to see it go from a big pile of green glass, to a recognizable object. By mending artifacts we can measure the volume of vessels or have an object ready to display.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Burch House in Profile.

For the next few days in the office, we will be processing and digitizing the information we've gathered from the Burch House excavations. I am drafting the unit profiles into AutoCAD. Above we have a profile from Unit 92, which is directly next to the western wall of the building. We excavated this unit to get a better idea of the construction of Burch House.

You can see from the image that the foundation extended only a few courses of brick below grade. A horizontal gap of over an inch was discovered between the modern upper bricks and those below the soil. This most likely happened when the wall was repointed. The brick pavement was flush against the wall one course below grade.

Soil descriptions are in the image, below the profile. We found that the strata below the house was similar to those in nearby units. We now know which strata pre-date the building. This information will help us close in on the construction date of Burch House.

Please click the image for a larger view.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Itty Bitty Button

We found this little button next to the Burch House last week. It has a copper alloy backing with a shank (a small metal loop). There is a small bit of wire through the shank, which is interesting because we would expect a button to be attached using thread, not wire. The inset is porcelain with a flower painted on it in a sparkling gold. Painting buttons and other ceramics was a popular past time in the Victorian era, however the picture on our button looks more like it was executed quickly and somewhat sloppily. It was most likely made in a button factory.

We will be at Port Tobacco tomorrow.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Aboriginal Activity at Burch House

Hi folks!

Remember all those times we were working at Burch House and lamented the lack of aboriginal materials? Well my friends, those days are over! This past week we came across a stemmed quartzite projectile point (see image) while excavating the dark, organic layer beneath the burnt oyster shell, prompting us to investigate this stratum in an adjoining unit. Before long the screeners were finding a couple of flakes and even some aboriginal pottery! It looks like there is an aboriginal component to this's just three feet below the surface.

Each of these three sherds of aboriginal pottery (above the projectile point) is different. The one farthest to the left is cord-impressed, and at first glance appears to be sand and shell-tempered, suggesting that it may be Rappahannok. The sherd on the left is sand-tempered, and resembles Potomac Creek pottery. The one in the middle...well, we aren't sure! It appears to be sand-tempered, but with the mortar on it is difficult to see (it almost looks like a brick). We will have to do a bit more research to see what we can come up with about this one. The crew will be out next week to see what else may come out of this deposit-I think Carol may have been uncovering some sort of hearth/campfire feature.

I have to say, I wish I was going to be around to see the extent of the aboriginal material at Burch House-it seems like I am leaving just when things are getting even more interesting. This will be my last blog, save perhaps for an occasional update from Williamsburg. I wish you all the best, and will be sure to check the blog to see what's happening at Port Tobacco!

Over and out

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Happy birthday to you...only one day late!

Hi folks!

Our work at Burch House yesterday caused us to miss a very important blog opportunity to wish PTAP member April Beisaw happy birthday! Fieldwork down in Port Tobacco this summer hasn't been the same without's actually been rather calm and peaceful since she packed up her interns and headed back to Ohio!

Just kidding April. We miss you and wish you a happy birthday!

Also, I wanted to thank everyone again for the lovely potluck we had at Port Tobacco yesterday-I sure wish lunch would be like that every time we were in the field! I had a fun year working with the PTAP crew and will miss you all now that I am heading off to do my graduate studies at William and Mary in Williamsburg. Thanks to all for a year full of fantastic finds! Keep in touch.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Feeling "melon"choly? How about a cup of tea?

Today while cataloging Anne and I came across a single sherd of possible creamware or pearlware with a green and yellow lead-glaze (image to the right). It also appeared to be stippled, judging by the small darker dots across the sherd. These are likely small indentations in the clay. When glaze was added to this vessel it pooled in these indentations, creating darker spots of color. Having never seen a decoration like this before, we thought that perhaps it was a version of Wieldonware, which is creamware with a clouded combination of green, brown, yellow, blue, and/or purple coloring in a glaze.

This label did not seem quite right, however, as the green and yellow glaze were not mixed together, and I have never seen a Whieldonware vessel with stippling. In a last ditch attempt to solve the mystery I searched for green and yellow glazed creamware, and look what came up!

Images courtesy of and

These melon-shaped teapots look like a perfect match for this sherd, if it is indeed creamware. These teapots date between the mid-1700s and the 1780s, and, in the case of this one, was produced in Staffordshire. Apparently melon-shaped teapots were all the rage at the time. If this is actually pearlware, then perhaps this design was used on later vessels as well. It is also possible that this sherd is not from a teapot, but perhaps from another vessel that was part of a tea service decorated in this style. Either way, it sure was nice to find out a little more about this unique sherd!


Friday, July 23, 2010

Burch House Drafting

Hi all!
The heat and humidity have kept the PTAP crew indoors today-I hope you all have made the same choice! There is plenty of report writing to catch up on for other projects, as well as keeping up with paperwork and artifacts from Burch House.

As part of our work at Burch House I have been drafting a floor plan and each of the elevations (Jim informed me that in architect-speak this is how each side of a building's exterior is referred to, while facade generally denotes the front). Digitizing dimensions of the Burch House will come in handy for images to use in publications and displays. Also, with a bit of work we should be able to turn these 2-D drawings into a 3-D representation of the Burch House, sort of like we do when we are reconstructing vessels.

Here are the north and west elevations of Burch House-please click on the image for a close-up (and yes, I am aware that Burch House is not actually green, aqua, and just helps me keep the different parts of the drawing straight!)

Stay cool this weekend! We plan on being at Burch House on Tuesday, but we will keep you posted on any changes in our field work schedule.


Monday, July 19, 2010

A post about posts

Hi folks,
Last week I mentioned that Elsie and I had been spending a lot of our time excavating post molds and holes (as well as possible replacement molds/posts) at Burch House. To give you all an idea of what this involves, I figured I would post a photo of the first post mold/hole that we removed. In this photo the top of the hole and mold (the lighter area outlined) is roughly 3 feet below grade, and the bottom of the post hole was another half foot down. It sure is hard to feel the breeze down there! It is possible that the two larger areas outlined are an original post hole and a replacement hole, while the small circular area is the mold. Since the excavation of this feature Elsie and I have been working on two more, and I believe Pete and Anne may have some features to report on as well.

We will be at Burch House tomorrow to continue with some of these features-hope to see some of you there!