Friday, June 4, 2010

Play that music!

Hey folks,Today's artifact from our excavations at the Burch House is thought to be one of the oldest types of musical instruments in the world. The Mouth Harp, as it is commonly known, is a simple metal frame with a flexible reed in the center. This reed can be made from materials such as metal or bamboo, though our harp is missing this piece. This instrument is sometimes called a "Jew Harp," though this is misleading as the instrument has no particular connection to Judaism or Jewish people, and this particular name may stem from "Jaw Harp," as a player uses his or her jaw and mouth to adjust the volume of the notes created by the instrument. Other names for this nifty little instrument are mouth harp, juice harp, and Ozark harp.

It is likely that this instrument originated in Asia, where it is still played by many people. While a player adjusts his mouth to change the volume, he will pluck the reed, which rests against the tongue, with his finger to produce a note. Changing the sound the instrument produces has a great deal to do with altering the shape of one's mouth and throat, as well as one's breathing...the whole process sounds pretty tough to me!

Have a great weekend everyone! We will keep you posted on our next day of digging at the Burch House.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Take your medicine!

Hi all!

Our work at the Burch House over the past few sweltering days (a special thanks to our volunteers for braving the sun, bugs, and humidity!) has produced some exciting finds, but for today's blog I though I would revisit a bottle we find a couple weeks ago.

This embossed lettering on this aqua bottle reads "COMPOUND PECTORAL" on one of the large sides with "JW BULL'S" and "BALTIMORE" embossed on the two small sides. It was found in Stratum 2 of Unit 84.

"JW BULL'S" refers to the Rev. Dr. John W Bull, the doctor responsible for coming up with the recipe for this compound. August Vogeler, who first manufactured drugs and chemicals in Baltimore starting in 1845, acquired Dr. Bull's recipes in 1873 and partnered with Adolph C. Meyer. By 1883 the company was known as A.C. Meyer and Co, and profited from sales of Dr. Bull's family medicines. As far as the contents of the compound go, it is likely that it was a mix of extracts and herbs intended to alleviate a cough, though without additional research it is impossible to know for sure. I suspect that it was cherry flavored (yuck!), given that this was the most common flavoring for cough medicines. This particular bottle likely dates to some time between 1880 and 1910, given that is is molded with a tooled finish, meaning that the mold seam stops short of the rim and a finishing tool was used to more particularly shape the rim (click on the image to the right for a close-up example). Thanks to the SHA bottle dating website for the picture as well as information on bottle types and finishes.

Hope to see you all out in the field! We will be out tomorrow as well as a couple of days next week, if the weather will allow it!