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!