Delaney Resweber – Schnitting isn’t a Baked Good (although I wish it was)

In the wise words of Dr. McMillan, what separates an archaeologist and a random guy digging holes is the process of diggings and documenting the units properly in order to make interpretations about the site; “our interpretations are only as good as our data” and if the unit is dug incorrectly, the data will be bad. Archaeologists dig two main types of holes, Shovel Test Pits (STPs) and Test Units. The focus of this blog post is on test units. Test units are usually done after STPs and are placed based off the results of STPs where an archaeologists hypothesize a site is located.

Last week, I started (and completed!) a test unit with my field partner, Lilly Salamone. To lay in the unit, we need to place four nails in the shape of a square on the ground. Each nail should be exactly five feet away from each other. Luckily, two grid nails had already been placed earlier using a transit and we could use their location to place the last two nails. To do this, we set up a math problem (yuck!) using the Pythagorean Theorem to figure out what our diagonal measurement of the square will be so we can correctly measure out the square. To spare you all from the math, the diagonal measurement of the triangle should be 7.07 feet. Using two measuring tapes we carefully measure the diagonal for the third point, once we find the place 5 and 7.07 meet, we drive a nail into it to mark it and repeat the process for the fourth and final point. Once that is completed we tightly string the unit to give us boundaries to dig.  Now, we can start doing the fun stuff: digging!

Once the top soil is cleared, Professor McMillan had us practice “schnitting” which is an important technique (and not what I hoped was a pastry break), where the archaeologist lightly grazes the soil to evenly dig the unit and keep it level throughout. This is honestly kind of difficult, especially if the soil is bad (luckily we had the “best” soil, a sandy Tidewater soil that cuts like “butta”) but gets easier with practice. While schnitting, we began cleaning the walls and making them straight and clean. Professor McMillan had us do this with a spade to get the big portions done and then we went through and trimmed the roots with scissors and cleaned the wall with our trowel. After schnitting to subsoil, we carefully trowel the unit to fully reveal the subsoil and any features present on the unit’s floor. Eventually, you will have to get out of the unit to finish troweling because you can’t leave footprints inside the unit so you have to reach out and scrap the remaining parts of the floor clean. We had to be careful because sometimes we left what Professor McMillan calls “mouse poops” inside the unit, which are tiny pieces of dirt and the unit should be perfectly cleaned. Once the floor is cleaned we take pictures to document and score the features inside the unit. Scoring is essentially outlining your feature. Our unit had some features, all of which were plowscars and root stains. Overall, I think it was a fun experience and I think it was exciting to see the progression of the unit as we dug it. My favorite part about this unit is the lack of poison ivy and how easy it was to dig the soil. We mostly had quartz and quartzite flakes and shatter in our artifact assemblage but we also had a few pieces of ceramics, including Native American pottery and a piece of Staffordshire slipware which is odd for a Native American site but could’ve been the product of trade or an intrusive artifact from a different group of people who occupied the site at a different date.

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Archer Long – Thriving and Striving at Stratford Hall

Signing up for field school this summer has led to many amazing opportunities. One of the biggest surprises was the opportunity to stay at Stratford Hall Plantation. Stratford Hall, built in 1738, is best known as the birth place of Robert E. Lee and home to the brotherly signers of the Declaration of Independence. While staying on the plantation we have been given the chance to live in the renovated barn that is located right down the road from the Great House. Having the opportunity to roam the plantation at night is incredible and it really shows a different side to Stratford that not many get to see, one of an eerie beauty. While at Stratford for our five weeks, we have been given the chance to process and analyze artifacts in a remote lab that the Department of Historic Preservation has set up on site. Archaeologists from MWC/UMW excavated various sites at Stratford for over twenty years and they now have a backlog of artifacts that need to be cleaned and cataloged. Two days a week we head to our lab to get to work on the artifacts.

The first step of lab-work is washing artifacts. Washing artifacts can mean either using a dry toothbrush to scrub dirt off bone, metal, or other delicate materials or using a wet toothbrush to scrub most other types of artifacts, such as glass, rock, and ceramic. Cleaning artifacts can be very fun; but, it can also be very tedious. Getting to see the dirt wash off and reveal the glaze of a ceramic is exhilarating; however, cleaning a pipe can be stressful because you don’t want to damage the artifact. Having only a little bit of lab experience, I found learning how to catalog artifacts to be interesting and complicated. I had volunteered in the Mary Washington lab on campus in the past and cleaned many artifacts but, this was the first-time cataloging. Cataloging is our way of keeping track of the different artifacts we find, by labeling the data we can look back at any time and see all of the information needed. It also allows us to look at the “big picture” and see everything found on the site. It is a tedious task because you must be sure to correctly input the information so as not to falsely label the artifact. You must be able to identify an artifact, note anything special about it, weigh it, and record a variety of other inputs, such as manufacturing date, which provides a TPQ. When cataloging you are given the chance to learn so much about an artifact: what it is and what it was used for. The many artifacts we get to handle are so fascinating and many are things I never had the chance to handle before.

One of the first artifacts I had the pleasure of cataloging was a projectile point. Projectile points are one of my favorite artifacts to find because they are all so uniquely different. When cataloging a point, you must weight it and take several different measures, but you must also identify what type it is. The base of the point can help to identify it and tell us a rough estimate of when it was made based on known chronologies. Over time the size and shape of projectile points changed, the more recent points tend to be smaller as they went from being used to hunt megafauna to small woodland creatures. The point I had the chance to identify was likely a Guilford Lanceolate point, which would have been made about 6000-5000 years ago (MAC Lab). Having learned so much in such a brief time really excites me for the future and all the other things I will get the chance to find and explore.

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Lilly Salamone – This first week of field school was a ton of fun!

I had some experience volunteering in the UMW archaeology laboratory beforehand, but I was excited to expand it by working in the field. I did not really know what to expect, as the only experience with archaeology I had before was a handful of classes at Mary Washington, documentaries, and a few visits to Mount Vernon in elementary school.

On Tuesday, we arrived at the site and I had my first experience with field work. We were sent into a field full of very tall grass (some of it was past my chest!) to dig small shovel test pits, about one foot by one foot wide and deep along a grid. The grid-based sampling via the test pits and the pattern of artifacts it would reveal, would help indicate the patterns of settlement and occupation by the Native Americans who lived there. Although my partner, Lizzie, and I were initially unsure what we were looking for, by the end of the day we had gotten pretty good at identifying the small ceramic sherds and the little flakes of quartz shatter. We also got much better at digging the test pits, as our first one was about one foot one foot deeper than it needed to be. I also made the mistake of wearing a white shirt, which ended up VERY dirty.

Wednesday and Thursday we began to dig at different location on the same site, which is located in a small section of woods nearer to the river. This time we dug test units which were five feet by five feet, although still just about a foot deep. My group ended up discovering what Mr. Strickland and Dr. McMillan hypothesized was an unplowed surface midden, which is the layering of trash what was tossed in an unburied heap on the ground. We found some interesting stuff in the test unit, including two metal knives, oyster shells, a ton of Native American ceramics, and a piece of German Westerwald pottery. I found a piece of European gun flint which had chips taken out of it, suggesting someone tried to turn it into a tool.

On Friday, we had our first day of lab work. We also cleaned the van, earning ourselves headaches from the smell of the cleaning product. The lab work was familiar to be due to my prior experience volunteering in the archaeology lab, especially as I was assigned to clean the artifacts outside. The artifacts we found in the field tended towards lithics and Native American pottery, with only a handful of Europeans goods. The artifacts we are cleaning in the lab come from Stratford Hall Plantation, and are mostly Europeans ceramics of several different types and glazes, with many, many small fragments of aqua window glass. Next week, I will learn how to catalog artifacts, which will be new.

It was not all fun and games however. I discovered several different puddles by the highly scientific method of stepping in them, just about ten minutes after my shoes had finally dried out; I got a bad sunburn on my arm because I failed to put on sunscreen after lunch; and Wednesday I was extremely sore from the first day of digging. Delaney, another field school student, even found a tick on my shirt but luckily I have not found any on my skin.

Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the first week. I am looking forward to the rest of field school and I think I have finally figured out what I want to do when I grow up!

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Matt Greczy – The Importance of Empty Pits

While digging one of many shovel test pits during field work, my partner and I made a small discovery. Before we had even broken the earth for our test pit, we found a sizable sherd of ceramic laying on the ground near the flag we were to dig at. It was rather thick, with a black glaze on one side and a white glaze on the other; as we were near a field it was clear that this was an artifact turned up by a farmer’s plow. To a pair of fresh field school students, it was like the find of the century, especially after a day of finding nothing but rocks that could be artifacts. Upon showing the artifact to the nearest archaeologists, we found that it was most likely a nineteenth century piece of crockery. This was disheartening to hear at first, as we were not looking for nineteenth century artifacts on that day, we had been looking for seventeenth century artifacts, such as Native American or European trade goods. Upon seeing our initial disappointment, we were reassured that our find had not been nothing, and that even though this artifact did not tie into the research question posed for the dig directly, it served as an important piece of data in understanding the overall occupation of the site. This served as an important lesson, one which contextualized much of the work we had done up to that point that didn’t feel as exciting or flashy as finding a rare artifact.

Archaeology is a science which is driven by data. The wider a set of data is, the more comprehensive the understanding that can be drawn from it. It is for this reason that the most credible studies and surveys draw their conclusions from a wide and varied group of test subjects. In order for the study to be complete, there exists a need for data which does not support the hypothesis posed. Unlike in other sciences where non-supportive data could mean a dead end, in archaeology all data helps determine the history of the site. In the context of archaeology this can be framed in the digging of shovel test pits, each of which yields statistical data which will then be used to decide where to open test units. In

order for the archaeologist to understand the area that is being excavated, it is necessary to know where the artifacts aren’t, just as much as where they are. Connecting this back to the previous anecdote, we had searched all day for evidence of European contact and found nothing, save for some lithics of Native American origin. Then the ceramic sherd was found, giving a relative date for when goods like this arrived on that site. In spite of this data not supporting the hypothesis that this site was a location of European contact, this still contributes to the historical understanding of the site and its occupation. It is easy to get sucked into the romantic idea of archaeology of uncovering fantastic artifact after fantastic artifact without realizing how important it is to diligently study every part of a site. Since that lesson was learned, it has contextualized every empty hole and shovelful not as a failure but as a piece of data just as valid as an exciting artifact that we were hoping to find.


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Lizzie O’Meara – Archaeology: Can you dig it?

The week of May 21st, 2018 marked my first week of field school with the University of Mary Washington. While the thought of getting to experience actual real world archaeology was an exciting one, I could not help but feel slightly intimidated by the 5 weeks that laid ahead of us on that first Monday morning. Once we had settled into our accommodations at Stratford Hall Plantation, we explored the grounds that we would call home for the next month. Our class has been given the opportunity to work with the plantation’s collection of artifacts twice a week, which allows us to gain more experience with the greater scope of archaeological work. The other three days of the week will be spent in the field with archaeologists from St. Mary’s College of Maryland, excavating nearby contact period Native American sites.

On our first day in the field, we began with the task of digging shovel test pits, or STPs, which all archaeologists must complete in order to get an idea of the distribution of artifacts across a wide area. This process allows us to determine where we may want to investigate further through digging a unit, usually measuring 5×5 feet. When digging an STP, once you hit the lowest level of soil, called subsoil, you stop digging. It is fairly easy to tell when you have hit the subsoil based on the difference in color and consistency of the dirt. However, being the untrained amateur that I am, my first STP went down about a foot deeper than it needed to. That being said, mistakes like those are the essence of field school. We are out here in order to learn the correct way to do things, and sometimes that means having to sift through an extra foot of dirt in order to learn from that mistake.

Speaking of sifting, that brings me to my favorite part of field school so far: screening for artifacts. When we are out digging, we carry these screens with us in order to sort through the dirt that we pull up from the ground. This allows us to catch all the artifacts that may be located in our STP or unit. If we did not do this, what would be the point of digging these holes in the first place? I have been learning so much from Dr. Lauren McMillan and Dr. Julie King, who have been helping us to identify the various artifacts that have come from the site.

After we finished our shovel test pit survey, we opened up 5x5ft. test units. My favorite artifacts that we have recovered from our unit were small green and red trade beads, pictured below among fragments of red clay and white clay pipes. Due to their small size, they nearly slipped right through the screen, making them an extra special find.

As mentioned before, our class has been given the opportunity to do lab work for Stratford Hall Plantation. The work that we have been doing consists of cataloging and cleaning their collection of artifacts excavated from a site located on the property called the Oval Site. Among the various artifacts are ceramics, glass, pipe fragments, and lithics, which are the byproducts left behind from stone tool making. Through doing this work, we are learning the processes that go into the side of archaeology that sometimes goes unnoticed. Without this work, there would be no hope for gaining a larger interpretation of the sites that we excavate.

I feel very lucky to have been given the opportunity to take all of the methodology that I have learned in the classroom and see it applied in a real world situation. I hope to continue expanding my knowledge over the next month, and I look forward to all of the exciting discoveries we are sure to uncover in the field.

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John Strangfeld – GIS and Geospacial Analyses at Nomini Plantation

My name is John Strangfeld. I am one of several students working in the Department of Historic Preservation’s archaeology lab. This is my fourth and final semester working with the archaeology department before my graduation. Throughout my time working in the department, I have been a part of a number of projects. However, this semester was the first in which I have been able to apply my knowledge of GIS (Geographic Information Systems) to my work. Most recently, I’ve been researching and analyzing the Nomini Plantation archaeological site as part of an undergrad research project with the department.

Nomini Plantation (44WM12) was a site in Westmoreland County, Virginia, which had been occupied throughout the mid 17th-late 18th-century. None of the site’s building remain standing today. A trash pit within the site was excavated during the 1970s, but no formal analysis of the results was conducted, and no reports were written. As part of the current analysis project underway in the UMW Archaeology Lab, I’ve been using geographical analysis to study and visualize what has already been uncovered.


The bulk of the research involved mapping the archaeological units that were excavated and associating them with artifact counts to create what are effectively heat maps, showing artifact density within the excavation site. These data show how artifacts had been deposited in the site, both between different categories of objects (pipes, ceramics, and bone) and over time. Two important pieces of information resulted from this analysis. First, we are able to see usage of the site change and move away from the plantation’s 17th-century dwelling, around the construction of a new plantation home in the 18th-century. Secondly, higher concentrations of both utilitarian ceramics and locally made pipes (objects associated with indentured servants or enslaved African Americans) occurring in units away from the dwelling provide evidence for a previously unknown outbuilding located near the trash pit.


On the weekend of March 15th-18th, I attended the Middle Atlantic Archaeological conference at Virginia Beach with a number of my peers. Among the group representing Mary Washington were Dr. Lauren McMillan, Cheyenne Johnson, Shannon Bremer, Reagan Anderson, Daphne Ahalt, Elizabeth O’Meara, and Rick Altenburg, many of whom had come to present their own research. I brought my research to this conference in the form of a poster to be entered into the student research poster competition. Along with Shannon Bremer who’s research paper on “Hygiene and the Civil War” tied for first place in the student paper competition, my project had the fortune of winning in the student poster competition.

Outside of supporting Mary Washington students, the conference provided an opportunity to connect with other local archaeology teams and professionals in the field. There was a range of subjects being presented on, and we as a group were able to attend a number of these. Events like the poster competition also allowed for me to meet and talk with student archaeologists, especially those who were also using GIS as their tool for research. Lastly, I was able to reconnect with UMW graduates and archaeologists I’ve worked with or under in the past, such as Doug Sanford and Dennis Pogue.

Now that I’ve come back from the archaeological conference, I’ve been researching the Nomini Plantation site within the context of Westmoreland County. The first part of this is looking at historical records of land ownership within the county in order to understand how the county was divided up within the 17th-18th centuries, and to be able to locate potential future archaeological sites. This is all possible thanks to the work of David W. Eaton, who worked through countless land patent records in order to map parcels as they were in Westmoreland several centuries ago. Through GIS software, I’ve georeferenced the maps he drew to depict where these boundaries fall in a modern context. Additionally, I’ve been working to employ LiDAR scans and satellite images to show the ways Nomini Plantation will be endangered by both a receding cliff line and a rising sea level. Using these data should give an idea as to the necessity of further excavations at the plantation site in the upcoming years.

The results of my work studying Nomini Plantation have been encouraging. I’m happy with my time spent at the archaeological conference and with my experience working on this project. I look forward to seeing how this research can further benefit the Department of Historic Preservation and future studies of Nomini Plantation and Westmoreland County.


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Shannon Bremer- Hygiene and the Civil War

I recently presented a research paper at the Middle Atlantic Archaeological Conference this past March in Virginia. My paper focused on health and hygiene related artifacts recovered from a nearby Civil War era Union encampment in Stafford County, Virginia.

More often than not, as modern day humans, we take health and hygiene for granted. To us, it is normal to have easy access to doctors, dentists, medicines, toothbrushes, and hair products. During the 1800s, especially during the Civil War, it was not as common nor was it as easy to get access to any of the things I mentioned above. The site I am studying was an encampment of mainly officers and it is probable that the higher socio-economic status of the officers attributed to their greater access to hygiene related products, in comparison to other known army encampments. Despite the higher status of the officers, only seven hygiene related artifacts were recovered. This low number speaks volumes about how little the army cared about the health of their soldiers, but also that soldiers and officers at least cared about their personal health enough to purchase their own goods.

One of the most important body parts for a soldier was his teeth. A soldier needed most, if not all, of their teeth to not only tear cartridges for his gun, but also to receive nutrients through the proper mastication of food (Hammond 1863:59). Even though this was included in Hammond’s manual, dental hygiene was not a priority for the Union Army. They entered the war without dental surgeons and did not supply toothbrushes to its troops (Hyson et al. 2008: 29). Because of this, soldiers had to provide their own toothbrushes, which could either be sent from home or were hand-made. Soldiers could also seek out civilian dentists if they had a serious dental problem (Shroeder-Lein 2008:84). If they needed a tooth pulled, however, they could visit the Army surgeon who would perform the task, regardless of how qualified he was (Hyson et al. 2008:38).

At the encampment recently investigated by UMW’s Historic Preservation archaeological field school, two bone toothbrushes were found within Civil War era deposits. One of the toothbrushes was severely burnt, leaving it a dark black color. Along the top, rounded edges of both toothbrushes, four holes can be seen. Those holes as well as the smooth back indicate that the method of trepanning was used to insert the bristles (Mattick 1993: 163). For the process of trepanning, “the bristle holes are drilled only partway to the back of the stock. Instead of joining the holes with a slit, a hole was bored or trepanned from the end of the stock to form a ‘tunnel,’ which joined the holes” (Mattick 1993: 163). A thread attached to the bristles would be sewn through each hole to attach the bristles almost inconspicuously into the head of the toothbrush, resulting in a smooth back instead of cutting slits to insert the bristles (Mattick 1993: 163). This tells us that these toothbrushes were sent by family members or purchased by the soldiers and not hand-made due to the precision and care needed to make a trepanned toothbrush.

It is hard to have toothbrushes without some sort of powder or paste to help clean your teeth. During the Civil War, toothpaste (aka dentrifice) could either be prepared at home or bought from pharmacies (Spring Hill Historic Home 2017). The base of a whiteware toothpaste jar was recovered from the same master-context as the burned toothbrush. An officer or a soldier could have purchased this jar from the nearby town of Fredericksburg; however, it is also possible that it was a jar they had been carrying with them to be refilled with homemade dentrifice, a common practice in the 19th century.

The overall lack of toothbrushes in the mid-19th century led to poor dental hygiene, especially within the Union Army. Had toothbrushes been more accessible, it is possible that soldiers may not have suffered from as many dental issues and diseases as they did. In part, the lack of toothbrushes could be attributed to the need for mass production of the product, something that did not happen until after the war.

Hair hygiene was just as important as dental hygiene. Besides soldiers and officers, camps were also occupied by lice (Capinera 2008: 1817). Since most people did not bathe or wash their hair frequently during the 19th century, it was of the upmost importance, especially for men, to find a way to remove dirt, oil, and bugs from not only their hair, but their beards as well (Sherrow 2006: 90). Fine-toothed combs, especially lice combs, were the easiest and most convenient way to clean and style hair. They were often hard-rubber and were carried by most, if not all, soldiers and officers in their packs. Unfortunately, like most personal hygiene items, combs were not provided by the army. Many officers and soldiers also used hair tonic to both style and groom their hair, beard, or mustache. Because of this, it is no surprise that two fragments of separate hard-rubber combs as well as a bone brush handle were found in the midden. Nearby the brush handle, an aqua bottle of Barry’s Tricopherus Hair Tonic was found. Barry’s was one of the most famous tonics during the 19th century, especially in New York, where it was manufactured. A majority of the troops occupying this site were from New York, therefore it is understandable why this tonic would be present in Stafford County.



Surgeon Corps played an important role in taking care of soldiers and officers. For the most part, surgeons also acted as general doctors and dentists. This included not only performing surgeries and amputations, but also giving medicine to the sick and doing basic dental procedures. Due to the finding of a possible bandage clasp and historic documentation, we know there was a corps of surgeons at this site during the war. Within the midden, an abundance of whiskey glass was found along with some belonging to bitters bottles (Fuechsel et al. 2017). Both are alcohol related by nature, and both were used by soldiers on a personal level for self-medication when surgeons could not help them.

These artifacts have granted us a closer look at the lives of the officers and soldiers that inhabited this encampment during the Battles of Fredericksburg, even if it was only for a short period of time. We now have not only a better understanding of how the officers and soldiers at this encampment took care of themselves, but also how soldiers and officers in general tried to maintain good health. While rudimentary by today’s standards, the ways in which these men took care of themselves during wartime were advancements from typical health related behaviors at the time and encouraged better behaviors post-war. I really enjoyed the conference and hearing about the different archaeological research that is being done in the Mid-Atlantic. There is so much to learn about this region from archaeology and the other papers and posters at the conference truly showed that to me. I cannot wait to learn even more at the conference again next year!


Works Cited

Capinera, John L. (editor)
2008 Encyclopedia of Entomology. Springer Science and Business Media.

Fuechsel, Melanie
2017 Bitters and Libations: Bottle Glass and Sherwood Forest Plantation’s Union Encampment. Paper presented at the 46th Annual Middle Atlantic Archaeological Conference. Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Hammond, William A.,
1863 A Treatise on Hygiene. J.B. Lippincott & Co, Philadelphia, PA.

Hyson, John M. Jr, Joseph W.A. Whitehorne, and John T. Greenwood
2008 A History of Dentistry in the US Army to World War II. Office of The Surgeon General at TMM Publications, Washington DC.

Mattick, Barbara E.
1993 The History of Toothbrushes and Their Nature as Archaeological Artifacts. In The Florida Anthropologist Vol. 46 No. 3. pp. 162-184.

Schroeder-Lein, Glenna R.
2008 The Encyclopedia of Civil War Medicine. Routledge, Armonk, NY.

Sherrow, Victoria
2006 Encylcopedia of Hair: A Cultural History. Greenwood Press, Westport, CT.

Spring Hill Historic Home
2017 “Morning Breath.” <>. Accessed 12 February 2018.

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UMW 2018 Archaeological Field School

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Caleigh Sullivan – The Story Behind the Stone

A cemetery, representing the material culture of death, reflects change in style, ideology, and identity of individuals and of societies.  Researchers perform cemetery analyses to determine spatial organization, questions of religion, class, status, ethnicity, and the rise and fall of stylistic trends on gravestones. Following research by Edwin Dethlefsen and James Deetz (Dethlefsen and Deetz 1966; Deetz 1996), archaeologists have used cemetery studies to test archaeological ideas of seriation. Gravestones are used because they possesses three dimensions – time, form, and space – that can be controlled to test change over time. In class, we studied gravestones at the City of Fredericksburg Cemetery to create our own seriations through the creation of typologies and to observe changes in shape, ideas, and decorations over time.

Noting the characteristics and typologies of the gravestones provided a connection and relationship with the gravestones and the people they represent.  Recording names, birth years, and death years, and other attributes listed on the stone, the basis of their identity can be gathered.  With a name, a cold, inanimate stone now has an essence and a story of a human being connected to it.  From this small look into someone’s personhood, there are reflections of their loved ones’ views or relationship with the person, as well as the state of the deceased found through motifs and epitaphs on gravestones.  Motifs and symbols display imagery on the stone which gives an observer an idea about what must have been important to the person when they were alive.  For example, on the gravestone of William C. Beale, the motif is an urn, a symbol of commemoration (Deetz 1996:99).  An epitaph on a gravestone is an inscribed statement that reveals religious views, class, and status of an individual.  On William C. Beale’s gravestone, the epitaph reads, “Beloved and respected citizen of this place who departed this life April 22, 1850.”  Through this, it is assumed that William C. Beale was a citizen of high class and status, whose fellow citizens, friends, and family held him in high regard.

All archaeological data possess three dimensions: time, form, and space.  In terms of time, the date of death and the date of carving are close in time, reflecting stylistic ideas at the time of the death, providing a good gauge of trends in tombstone shapes and designs during specific time periods.  Using types of tombstones from the City of Fredericksburg Cemetery, examples of seriation are visible between 1810 and the early 2000s.  We used a gravestone shape typology created by a previous MWC Historic Preservation student (Lindtveit 1999).

For our class exercise, we collected data from 160 gravestones, recording information on: stone shape, stone treatment, motifs, epitaphs, other inscriptions (such as “Aged” or the deceased’s relationship to the living), gender, and the presence of footstones. We calculated the popularity of different attributes through time and plotted them. For example, Type 1 tombstones show a decline in popularity.  It starts at 20% from 1810-1849, and goes to 9% from 1850-1879, then to 4% from 1880-1909, and completely disappears after this time period.  Meanwhile, Type 6 gains popularity at the time of the Type 1 decline.  From 1810-1849 at 20%, to 1850-1879 at 5%, to 1880-1909 at 11%, to 1910-1939 at 24%, to 1940-1969 at 4%, to a complete fade out.  Type 7 reflects a true seriation in relation to Type 6 with 0% between 1810-1849, 9% from 1850-1879, 9% from 1880-1909, 11% from 1910-1939, 21% from 1940-1969, to 10% from 1970-1999, to a disappearance after that.  While Type 1 is at a decline, Type 6 begins.  While Type 6 peaks, Type 7 is introduced and gains popularity.  This reflects the popular tombstone types over time.  Here is a picture of this seriation graph made in class:

According to James Deetz in his chapter “Remember Me As I Pass By,” the rise and fall of typology over time reflects the society that produced it.  Earlier versions of tombstones were quite ornate, becoming less elaborate as time passed, expressing society’s ideas of style and material culture change.  Earlier stones have rounded outlines and later stones are more square, as seen in this seriation pattern.  Type 1 is a round-shouldered stone, Type 6 is a reflection of a scroll, transitioning into Type 7, with square edges, showing development or advancement in tombstone production as skills developed, machine use increased, and ideas of style changed over time. Type 3, an obelisk, was popular at the same time as Greek key scrolling motifs carved onto the stones; this could reflect the popularity of the Greek Revival movement and Neoclassism- similar to what is seen in architecture.

Kneeling within the cemetery, closely reading the words etched into the stones, occasionally tracing unclear letters with my fingers or brushing away plant debris, the project gave me an opportunity to interact with artifacts in a new way.  My favorite part of this asignment was figuring out what hard-to-read etchings said.  In choosing gravestones, I wanted to analyze gravestones in as many decades as possible.  I found gravestones starting from 1810 all the way to the 1970s, giving me a more holistic look at changing trends in the material culture of gravestones.

Works Cited:

Deetz, James
1996    In Small Things Forgotten: An Archaeology of Early American Life. Anchor Books, New York, New York.

Dethlefsen, Edwin and James Deetz
1966    Death’s Heads’s, Cherubs, and Willow Trees: Experimental Archaeology in Colonial Cemeteries. American Antiquity 31(4):502-510

Lindtveit, Emily
1999    A Typology of the Tombstones of the Fredericksburg City Cemetery. Senior Project, Department of Historic Preservation, Mary Washington College. Manuscript on file, Department of Historic Preservation, University of Mary Washington.

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Olivia Larson- Hard Work and Self Medication on a Jim Crow Era Farm

When viewing an artifact for the first time, often it looks like nothing too special. However, after further investigation (and a lot of cleaning) something that once appeared insignificant can create an interesting story.  One such artifact is a small milk glass bottle, roughly 2 inches tall.  After being cleaned, it revealed the words, “Musterole 23 2 Cleveland” on the base of the jar.  Musterole was wrapped around the top and Cleveland around the bottom.  The 23 and 2 are stacked one on top of the other with 23 above the 2.  It is unclear what the 23 or 2 mean; however, it was common for bottle making manufacturers to identify plant locations using numbers.  If a bottle manufacturer produced several different bottle shapes, each unique shape would be given its own mold number. Given these two common practices among bottle manufacturers, it is possible that the “23” indicates the specific (currently unidentified) plant and the “2” indicates the specific mold in which the bottle was produced (Lindsey 2017).

This artifact was found approximately 20 feet away from a slave quarter duplex built in the 1840s that was later converted to tenant housing in the postbellum era. The building continued to be used as tenant housing into the 20th century.  The bottle was recovered from an early 20th century work yard fill. This particular bottle was most likely made sometime in the 1940s based on the bottle’s shape in comparison to other examples, period advertisements, and other artifacts found with the bottle.

Musterole Co. was created in Cleveland Ohio by a pharmacist named A.L. McLaren and a hardware store owner named George Miller 1907.  This Musterole bottle would have contained a white ointment that contained a combination of camphor, menthol, methyl salicylate and of course mustard oil.  It was used to treat colds, muscle aches, and chest congestion, similar to what we call Vicks today.  Previously, mustard plaster was used to treat illnesses and muscle pain, but it was thick, harsh, and was known for leaving blisters on the skin where it was applied.  Musterole was very popular up until 1970 when it was sold and relocated to Tennessee.  It continued to be sold by the Plough Corp. of Tennessee and Schering Pharmaceutical Co., but not under the name Musterole. Soon after, however, it faded out of popularity (Case Western Reserve University, 2017).

Around this time, on the plantation in which the bottle was found, the property was owned by John Lee Pratt.  His nephew, T. Benton Gayle, lived in the plantation’s big house and oversaw the conversion of the wheat farm to a dairy farm in the early 1930s.  Prior to living on the plantation, Gayle received his bachelor’s degree in agricultural science from Virginia Tech, and was also the Superintendent for Stafford and King George County schools. Gayle employed several people, some of whom lived on the property.  One notable employee was John Taylor, a young African American man who most likely resided in the Duplex (Saffos 2017).  Taylor was 25 at the time of the 1940 census, which listed his occupation as “house boy.”  His wife, Carrie, and young daughter, Jean, also resided with him.  This speaks a lot to how race played a part in agriculture and farming.

Prior to the construction of the dairy farm, the plantation workers were predominantly African American.  Because dairy farming used more equipment and technology than traditional farming, Gayle (and many other farm operators) believed the task seemed better suited for white men, while African-Americans were deemed unable to do such advanced work.  Thus, African-Americans were reduced to more menial tasks, such as “house boy.” This switch from black workers being the majority to white workers took place on this farm in the 1930s when the dairy farm became the main operation (Saffos 2017).

Home remedies, such as Musterole, have been around for many years. And although Musterole appeared to work very well, many people would pair the salve with other ingredients to give it an extra kick.  It was common among older African-American women to use garlic and cayenne pepper with the Musterole.  It was also common for this demographic to drink a wild cherry bark tea while also using the Musterole.  However, as time progressed, it became less common for complementary medicine to be used.  This may be due to the rise in education about medicine and better access to conventional medical care (Barnett et. al 2003).  Physicians also became better trained in the human anatomy, thus, able to treat illness more reliably and without the use of harmful substances.  Examples of Musterole’s use can be found in several other early 20th-century archaeological sites associated with African American communities (Hautaniemi et al. 1994; Barnett 2003; Baker 2013).

A prescription medicine bottle was also found near the Duplex.  Based on manufacturing marks, the bottle was made in 1942 (Saffos 2017).  This bottle was most likely used and thrown away by John Taylor or his wife and represents yet another shift that was happening on the plantation at the time. While ethnomedicine and home remedies continued to be widely accepted in the African American community up until the mid to late 20th century (Barnett et. al 2003), the presence of a pharmaceutical bottle that would have been prescribed by a medical doctor shows that new ideas were being accepted. Both traditional and new western medical cures, as represented by the Musterole and the prescription bottles, were used at the same time.

This jar was just a small glass jar when found, but after research and analysis it paints a picture about life in the first half of the 20th century.  We can start to learn about the treatment of African American workers at this time, as well as about manufacturing of medicines and how people used them. This one object also served as a starting point to look into the life of one specific person, John Taylor, and larger changes that took place on the farm.

Works Cited

Baker, Michael Jr.
2013    Archaeological Survey of the Lower Hill Redevelopment Project, City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Report to Sports and Exhibition Authority of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.

Barnett, Marina C, Margaret Cotroneo, Joseph Purnell, Danielle Martin, Elizabeth Mackenzie, and Alfred Fishman
2003    Use of CAM in Local African-American Communities: Community-Partnered Research. Journal of the National Medical Association 95(10):943-950.

Case Western Reserve University
2017    Musterole Co. Encyclopedia of Cleveland History.

Hautaniemi, Susan
1994    Recognizing Gender in Historical and Archaeological Contexts. Bulletin of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society 55(1):1-7.

Lindsey, Bill
2017    Historic Glass Bottle Identification & Information Website- Bottle Bases Page, Online. Society for Historical Archaeology and Bureau of Land Management.

Saffos, Kara
2017    Postbellum Workers at Sherwood Forest. Manuscript on file, Department of Historic Preservation, University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, VA.


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