Can YOU Identify This Mystery Object?


Every once in a while, archaeologists come across an artifact that truly puzzles them. We search texts for the object’s identity and/or function, we send photos of the object to every archaeologist we know hoping that someone will have seen it before, perhaps on another site or in another lab…and we sketch it, measure it, x-ray it, and stare at it. But, nope, we still don’t know what it is. Well, we have that kind of enigma on our hands at the MAC Lab and we’d LOVE your help to solve this mystery! Here’s some background to get you started: Conservators have been treating the unidentifiable small gold artifact (photos below) from an excavation at the Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site in South Carolina. Charles Towne Landing is the location of the first permanent European settlement in South Carolina, established in 1670. Other discoveries from the site include ceramics and tobacco pipe fragments which are consistent with a late 17th to early 18th century site, including a pipe bowl marked with “H/EDWA/RDS” ( Henry Edwards was a Bristol pipe maker from 1699 to 1727). Archaeologists have also uncovered a possible tabby floor. Tabby is a type of building material used in the coastal Southeast from the late 1500’s to the 1850’s. It is made of lime, water, sand, oyster shells, and ash and can be poured into molds for foundations, walls, floors, and other structural elements. Analysis was performed on the mystery artifact to confirm that the unknown object has a copper alloy core and is plated with 24k gold. Do you think you know what it is? If you do, that’s great! ‘Cause we really don’t.

If YOU have any information about this inscrutable object, please email cshaffer@mdp.state.md.us


Mystery object before treatment.


X-ray of mystery object.


Mystery object after treatment.

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