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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Daphne Ahalt – Meritorious Artifacts

It continues to amaze me how broken and dirty artifacts excavated from an archaeological site can reveal details of the people, manufacturing techniques and material culture of a time long past. I recently had the opportunity to analyze two non-mendable sherds of black-transfer printed whiteware found on the land of wealthy plantation owner, Henry Fitzhugh, who was a prominent wheat farmer in the Fredericksburg, Virginia region; he inherited his land from Mary Ball Washington’s descendants.

With a little research, manufacturing techniques of the time were uncovered. Both pieces of whiteware were thinly potted and molded, and have incising at their base. Black transfer printed wares were produced from 1785 to 1865 (Stelle 2001), but whitewares were not produced until the early-19th century.  A design was engraved into a copper plate; the plate was then inked, and a thin tissue pressed onto it. The tissue would then be removed and placed on the ceramic to be decorated, lightly fired, glazed, then fired again. Visible on the larger of the two sherds are the nearly-complete words “Reward of Merit” that are surrounded by a leaf border. The smaller sherd has a floral design printed on it. Upon closer inspection, shadow text can be seen where the transfer had been misplaced and then reapplied. The ink missing from inside the block letters appears to have been re-filled somehow, indicated by the incomplete and uneven ink within them.

The curvature of the sherds indicates they came from a small vessel, most likely a children’s drinking mug (similar to the complete example on the right). Until 1830, ceramic mugs were only printed on one side. Post-1830, mugs were printed on both sides, or in one continuous pattern around the mug (Riley 1991:12). The lesser quality of the sherds, in combination with the printing on them, infers a production date for these sherds of circa 1850.

Between 1820 and 1865, immigrants flooded into the new country, prompting American parents to educate their children in reading and writing, and encouraging manners, values and morals (Rider Minton 2006:1). This was born out of an effort to maintain the new nation’s social ideal of respectability, as Americans felt that foreign cultures and religions threatened to throw the social norm into chaos. This push for social respectability came shortly after the ceramic industry’s initial focus on children as a marketing target (Riley 1991:7).

During the middle of the 19th-century, children’s wares were produced in bulk (Riley 1992:12). The printed designs became less elaborate and the quality of the transfer declined. Wares with tilted and off center prints would have been considered “seconds” and, of course, were the cheapest to buy (Samford 2017: per. comm.).

Themes for children’s wares included: rewards for good children; family life; animals; fun and games; nursery rhymes; the ABCs; and Benjamin Franklin’s maxims. As was true to the period, some prints reaffirmed gender roles: girls sewing or doing laundry, boys at rough play or working in the fields (Riley 1991:6). Not all children’s wares contained happy subjects or encouraging messages; some would be deemed as inappropriate for children today. Cumulative rhymes – where a rhyme on one ceramic would build from the rhyme on another – often contained the most inappropriate verses (Siddall 2014). The Death of Cock Robin, for example, asks “who saw him die” and “who caught his blood?” Morbid? Yes, but for children of the 19th-century, death was a very familiar event.

The 1850 and 1860 United States Census records shows that the Fitzhughs were some of the wealthiest people in the county, and that they employed private teachers for their eleven children. Their elite status in the community would have ordained them an example of the social ideal of respectability Americans were trying to attain; therefore, educating their children would have been a priority. It was most likely one of the teachers – of lesser means than the Fitzhugh family –  who bought the lower-quality mug for one of the younger children they taught, sometime between 1850 and the winter of 1862, when the property was abandoned. The mug was most likely a reward for a lesson well-learned or a job well-done.

Today, these two tiny sherds of ceramic continue to teach lessons – and to reward us with a glimpse of past-lives, manufacturing techniques and the culture of a new country.

References Cited:

Rider Minton, Amy Karen
2006     A Culture of Respectability: Southerners And Social Relations In Richmond, VA, 1820-1865. Doctoral Dissertation, Department of History, University of Virginia, Charlottesville. University Microfilms International, Ann Arbor, MI.

Riley, Noel
1991    Gifts For Good Children: The History Of Children’s China, 1790-1890. Richard Dennis, The Old Chapel, Ilminster, Somerset, England.

Siddall, Judie
2014    Cumulative Rhymes On Children’s Pottery. DishyNews: A Transferware Blog.             <>.Accessed 1 October 2017.

Stelle, Lenville J.
2001    An Archaeological Guide to Historic Artifacts of the Upper Sangamon Basin. Center For Social Research, Parkland College. <>. Accessed 1 October 2017.

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Eric Dorman – Stone Tool Making: A Cooler Process Than You Think

A few days back, I had the great experience of being in a session that included a hands-on activity in flint knapping, the process of making stone tools. By participating in the flint knapping demonstration, I learned about the arduous process of making stone heads for tools. A preferable stone is fine-grained and absorbs the shock of impact, like from another stone, evenly so that it is easier to shape. The stone to be flaked must be braced in one hand whose arm is planted upon the leg below it. The other arm, possessing a hammerstone, will strike the stone with a full swing causing a fragmenting from the impact. A well done strike can create a large thin fragment that can have its own uses. Examples of these preferable stones include: obsidian, flint, and quartz.

In addition to Historic Preservation, I am also studying Geology. I know that certain rocks and crystals exist in certain places. Therefore, as an artifact analyst, by knowing the geology of an area from which a set of lithics came, I can tell which are local and which are non-local, possibly indicating trade.

As with metal tool heads, it is important to note the shape of stone tool heads as the shape indicates different functions, not just arrow and spear heads, but also hoes, skinning blades, and weights. Within each function, the shape of a tool head will vary across the land due to certain peoples accepting certain shape variations for a given tool. As a Historic Preservationist, it is important to know what variations were practiced by which peoples for this can serve as an identifier as to what tribe or group used the archaeological site in question.

Projectile Point made by Nate Salzman. I won this point.

The session was very enlightening as to how to make these tools. It’s an art and a science that employs technique and physical strength as well as foresight into what the creator intends to make. It also invokes resourcefulness as knapping fragments can be used for a purpose as well. Overall, flint knapping was actually more fun than I expected it to be.

We began the session with the instructor talking about what it means to flint knap, particularly concerning how it works and what to look for in a stone. We proceeded to try our skills by practicing against glass as well as usual stones like flint and obsidian. I won the pictured point by answering a question correctly.

I also fiddled with some obsidian, flint, and mahogany obsidian. My inner geologist was rather geeking out. In conclusion, I found the demonstration to be quite entertaining. Although I’m far from a professional flint knapper, it was interesting to learn about the art, science, and technique behind these things and employing them in person. I recognize the importance of the geological perspective in identifying them as well as the aesthetical perspective. Also importantly, as an archaeologist, I have to keep an eye out for fragments of these useful rock types as they may be caused by flint knapping.

Flakes I produced while flint knapping.

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Kara Deppe- I’m a Gatherer

The flint knapping demonstration was a frustrating, yet extremely beneficial experience which enabled us to learn more about this process and the people who used these tools.

The definition of flint knapping is “percussing two objects, stones, together to make an edge.” This sounds easy, but believe me when I say this is a craft. There are three things that dictate a nice point: material, angles, and shape. A stone with finer and more uniform grain is ideal for flint knapping because the break is more controlled. Obsidian is the easiest stone to work with, but it is not found in this area. In Fredericksburg, quartz and quartzite are the primary sources for stone tool making, which makes for a more difficult material to work with and shape. The angle at which the stone is struck with the pressure flaker, such as another stone or antler tool determines the size of the flake. Making the items allowed us to experiment with different stone types, look at our flakes and debitage, and interpret how the tool was created and its purpose.

In our lesson on lithic analysis, we further explored the art of stone toolmaking and discussed why these tools are significant. Lithic is just another word for stone. Stone can be manipulated in many ways. There is flint knapping to create tools such as arrowheads, but we can also have grinding stones. There is much to be learned about stone tools from the debitage left behind. Stone is a very durable material so it lasts a long time and is one of the limited artifacts that can be used to study prehistoric people. From the remnants of these stone tools, we can learn more about the tool use and technology levels of those living during the prehistoric era and trade and travel patterns of goods and ideas based on the type of stone found in different areas. We want to know more about people and how they interacted and behaved. Learning about their capabilities in tool making, allow us to study more about their lifestyle and show how we have progressed. The material used to create these stone tools vary in each area and indicate the range of these people and enable us to analyze the exchange of tools and methods for making these tools.

The actual demonstration was a lot of fun, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t frustrated when it came time for us to try our hand at flint knapping. My favorite part of the demonstration was watching Nate, our instructor, do the flint knapping because he was so good at it and made it look easy. I also loved being outside and hanging out with everyone in a different setting. While the flint knapping demonstration was eye opening and a great opportunity for us to learn more about Native Americans, I also found how hard it really is to create these tools. I credit myself for being very physically strong, but I have never felt so weak trying to get off a good flake. The angles were so tricky and I could never get a true point. I have a much greater appreciation for those who are skilled enough and have the patience to make stone tools and have realized that I am a gatherer.

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Daphne Ahalt- Traditional Technologies Day

On October 3rd, Nate Salzman, Education and Exhibit Specialist at the Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum’s Native Village in St. Leonard, MD., visited the University of Mary Washington campus to teach the Native American technologies of flint knapping, fire making, and pottery. During Prof. McMillan’s Laboratory Methods in Archaeology class, Mr. Salzman (or Mr. Nate, as he’s called by K-12 students who visit the museum) gave university students a hands-on lesson in flint knapping – the reductive process of breaking a larger core stone into little pieces until it is shaped into the tool desired. On this day, we were attempting to make projectile points.

Glass Projectile Point made by Mr. Salzman

Mr. Salzman first described the three most important facts to remember when flint knapping. One, the material used as a core stone will not only determine the quality of the final product, but will determine the difficulty of achieving it. He explained that the finer the grain of the core, the more control one has when breaking pieces off it. Two, the way you apply force to the core determines how that force travels through it – it’s all about the angle at which you strike the core. Third, determining which side of the stone to use and how to shape it is key. He made it look and sound easy, but after giving everyone a core stone to shape and a tool to shape it with – either a stick with a nail embedded in it, another stone or an antler – I can say that it is not an easy process. It was fun trying though! The experience was a lesson in interpreting the archaeological remains of flint knapping – called debitage – and how it relates to the stage of production, recognizing what the flintknapper was doing and how, and why and how variations occur in stone tools and the remains of production. I even gave myself a quick hair-trim with an obsidian flake – form and function at its finest!

I was then honored to join Prof. McMillan, Mr. Salzman, and fellow students Morgan Fries and Olivia Larson for lunch. We ate Italian food while enjoying casual conversation about the work he does at Jefferson Patterson Park, and his interest in what Fredericksburg had to offer university students. So, after lunch, Morgan and I took him on a little tour of the some of the city’s best spots! Of course, we had to stop by Carl’s, many Fredericksburg natives’ favorite place –  besides, what’s better than ice cream for dessert on a warm, sunny day? We then hopped back in the car for a little sight-seeing on the way to Old Mill Park for a walk along the river. Then it was back to campus to start setting up for the next learning experience with Mr. Nate – Native American fire making and pottery. This session was open to the public as well as students, and was even more fun than the flint knapping.

Mr. Salzman began this session by teaching the crowd how to start a fire using nothing more than a flat piece of wood, a pointed stick and a handful of dried plant and bark fibers as kindling. Working in teams, each member took their turn in rotation, quickly spinning the stick between their hands while pressing it down against the wooden plate sitting over the kindling. He explained how the friction during this process causes enough heat to spark the kindling. Again, easier said than done. My team, which included Olivia Larson, Josh Baker, Reagan Anderson, Dr. Brad Hatch, and myself, was able to make plenty of smoke, but no fire. Someone in the crowd, however, was successful, and soon a fire was burning in a pit in the middle of Jefferson Square – just in time to make some pottery!

Clay Baking Dish, made by the Author

Mr. Salzman had brought clay he had made himself – from dirt he dug from the park with a little sand mixed in as temper. He instructed the crowd to pick out the larger pieces of grass and bits of stone before rolling the clay into a workable ball. Using only our hands and a small amount of water, everyone began to form their clay into recognizable forms: bowls, cups, miniature cooking wares and even pipes. He then explained how to dry them properly, noting that drying them too quickly would cause the pottery to become brittle and break, and that drying too slowly can cause a loss of form. He even put one of the pipes in the fire to bake, making sure to place it just right so he would not scorch or crack the clay. While the pipe was baking, Prof. McMillan provided the ingredients for S’mores – what a great way to end such a fun day!

The entire day was an exciting adventure in Native American technologies. Being able to experience the ways of a past culture helped to explain some of the artifacts found – and missed – during field school this past summer; how they got there and what they can tell us about the natives who occupied the site before colonial settlement. I also gained a new appreciation for the grocery store, modern heating and cooking appliances, and a new understanding of Native American life. Thanks, Nate Salzman, for taking the time to visit and share your expertise with us – so much fun!

Products from the Traditional Technologies Day

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Spring 2018 Course- African Diaspora Archaeology

Professor McMillan here. I’m popping in to plug a course I am teaching next semester.

HISP 471A4: African Diaspora Archaeology

Permission of instructor is needed for this class. It is open to students both in the Department of Historic Preservation as well as non-majors. I encourage anyone who is interested in taking the class to contact me:


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