Sunday, January 20, 2013

Mount Vernon Midden: Part IV

The Native American assemblage from the South Grove. One of our more interesting projectile points is a Palmer type, similar to those seen in this image. It dates to the Early Archaic period, 8000 to 7200 BCE, slightly before George Washington came to live on the bluff overlooking the Potomac River!

This small object,broken in half, is a wig curler or tool used to curl the locks of wigs worn by both men and women, commonly encountered on archaeological sites dating from ca. 1700 to 1780. Its original shape was that of a dumbbell. Were the curler complete, it would have measured approximately 2 ½ inches. Made of white ball clay (the same material used to make tobacco pipes) these curlers were wrapped in wet paper and then in the hair of the wig. To set, the entire wig was placed in an oven. Much like hair styles today, wigs could have been maintained at a barber shop or at home, hence the common occurrence of curlers excavated from domestic archaeological sites. Being only one of two curlers found in the South Grove Midden, the archaeological record corresponds with the documentary evidence, suggesting that George Washington did not wear a wig!

This wig curler, and many like it, bears an off-center, encircled mark “_B” on the end. The first letter of the mark is illegible, but is probably a “W” or “I”, as most curlers are marked either “WB” or “IB”. The curler mark may also have the crown and dot symbol commonly impressed on the ends, but the mark is difficult to read. The marks and the fact that only two types have been found on colonial sites are a mystery.

A large, rusticated white salt-glazed stoneware mug, likely used for ale. You may notice the interesting decorative bands on this artifact- this is a unique application of grog, or bits of recycled ceramic, stuck to the exterior with a clay slip before firing in the kiln.

A short, thick glass cup with an unfinished, glass-tipped pontil scar. The vessel stands only 1.3” tall with a diameter of 2.4”. Have you ever seen anything like it? Some ideas that have been proposed: an ink well liner for a pewter desk set or a liner for a silver salt (the 18th century’s version of a salt shaker). The artifact dates to the earliest layers of the midden (ca. 1735-1757).

 A marble. One eighteenth century version of this game involves drawing a circle on the ground wherein the rest of the marbles are placed. The players then take turns shooting a marble into the circle and any marble knocked out of the circle is kept by that player. When there are no marbles left, the player with the most wins.

A small bone brush excavated from a 19th-century layer in the Midden. Bone brushes were often cut from cow femurs or pelvic bones with early bristles being of horsetail and later bristles (by the 20th-century) of wild boar hair, Although originally thought to be a toothbrush, the stock (head) of this brush is too long to fit in an individual’s mouth and does not taper in at the neck; it may instead be a fingernail brush.

Copy and photos from the Alexandria Archaeology Museum Facebook.

1 comment:

  1. Neat stuff! I so much enjoy seeing these kinds of things. Thank You , Jan. The Jacobite piece in the previous article was curious and very well could be the bases for a book of fiction.

    Thank You for all you do to provide the "Blog" to viewrs from "everywhere"