What the Baltimore Orioles and Babe Ruth Have in Common (Besides the Obvious, That Is!)


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Baltimore Orioles logo.

Because it is summer and the height of baseball season, I have decided this week’s blog will focus on the Baltimore Orioles, Maryland’s only major league baseball team. The connection with archaeology and artifacts from the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory collections may not be immediately apparent, but stick with me—we will get there! Continue reading

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SS Columbus Paddle Wheel – Steamboat Transportation and Trade along the Chesapeake Bay


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The SS Columbus paddle wheel underwent conservation treatment in Louisiana and arrived at the MAC Lab for curation when the lab opened in 1998.

By far the largest artifact in the MAC Lab collections, weighing in at a whopping 15,000 pounds (give or take), is the paddle wheel shaft from the SS Columbus (International Artifact Conservation 1998).  Built in Baltimore and launched in 1828, the Columbus plied the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, transporting cargo and passengers between Baltimore and Norfolk (Holly 1994).  On November 28, 1850, a fire broke out onboard the steamship, resulting in nine fatalities and the sinking of the vessel near Smith Point, Virginia.  Although the location of the wreck had been known since the 1970s, a decision was made to bring up the 22 ft. long paddle wheel shaft, as well a number of other pieces of the vessel, after the Army Corp of Engineers dredged adjacent to the shipwreck in 1990 in order to deepen the shipping channel (Irion and Beard 1995). Continue reading

Rockingham Hunt Pitcher and the Baltimore Pottery Industry


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Skillful application of the mottled Rockingham glaze serves to highlight the stag hunt motif on this Bennett pitcher.

During the 1980 excavation done prior to the construction of Baltimore’s Federal Reserve Bank, archaeologists removed the contents of numerous mid- to late nineteenth-century wells and privies from a neighborhood that served as home to first and second generation European immigrants. One of these privies had become the final resting place for a magnificent example of Baltimore’s nineteenth-century pottery industry. This Rockingham pitcher, molded in a detailed hunting scene depicting hounds attacking a stag and a boar, was manufactured around 1855 by E. and W. Bennett of Baltimore (Claney 2004). The Bennett firm, in production between 1846 and 1936, was one of the best known North American manufacturers of Rockingham glazed wares (Ketchum 1987:21). This firm’s wares are prized by collectors today for their finely detailed molded patterns, as well as quality of their mottled glazing (Brooks 2005). Continue reading

The Rosenstock Pot and the Development of Agriculture in Maryland


This week’s blog post features a spectacular pre-Columbian pottery vessel known at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab as the Rosenstock Pot. I have chosen this vessel to frame an essay about the development of agriculture by Maryland’s indigenous population and the consequences of agriculture on native life during a time archaeologists call the Late Woodland period (AD900 to AD1650).

The Rosenstock Site (18FR18) is a Late Woodland period village on the Monocacy River in Frederick County. Excavations there by the Archeological Society of Maryland and the Maryland Historical Trust revealed remains of trash-filled pits, hearths, human burials and two buildings believed to have functioned as sweat lodges. Radiocarbon dating of charred plant remains from hearth features showed the site was occupied from AD1335 to around AD1400 (Curry and Kavanagh 2004). Continue reading

The Birely Tannery Fleshing Knife-An Artifact of Frederick County’s Industrial Past


Most people are aware of the roles tobacco and other agricultural crops played in Maryland’s history. But I would wager that not nearly as many Marylanders know that the tanning of leather was second only to agriculture in economic importance in some parts of the state during the 18th and 19th centuries. In honor of that key role, I have chosen a tool used in the tanning industry as the starting point for this week’s blog on a trade that has all but disappeared from Maryland’s economy.

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Wooden handled fleshing knife found during excavations at Birely Tannery.

Continue reading

Update from Smith St. Leonard Site


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Alex Glass contemplates mapping the cellar floor brick.

The field crew has been taking advantage of this unseasonably nice weather to continue exploring the presumed storehouse cellar at the Smith St. Leonard site. The test unit now reaches almost six feet below the ground surface and the hoped-for brick floor (see blog entry from November 19th) has finally emerged. The projecting area of brick at the lower right of the photograph is either part of a bulkhead entrance into the cellar or part of a brick hearth. Diagnostic artifacts remain elusive, so we are still unsure when the cellar was filled.

Remote Sensing Success at the Smith’s St. Leonard Site


Earlier in 2012, JPPM hired geophysicist Tim Horsley to conduct three different types of remote sensing—ground penetrating radar, magnetometer, and soil resistivity—across the Smith’s St. Leonard site. These types of geophysical surveys can help reveal the locations of subsurface disturbances such as wells, privies, and building cellars prior to putting a shovel into the ground, and are a valuable tool for helping plan excavation. Tim observed numerous subsurface anomalies, including a large, deep anomaly in the area where an eighteenth-century storehouse may have been located.

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Volunteer Christa Conant assists Tim Horsley with soil resistivity testing at the Smith’s St. Leonard site.

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The red outlined box at the lower right depicts the projected location of the cellar.

Alex, Ed and Annette worked throughout the summer and fall to remove the overlying plowed soil from areas where Tim’s testing had found anomalies. In every location that Tim predicted a subsurface feature, the digging showed the accuracy of his testing. As October drew to an end, the decision was made to test the possible storehouse cellar. Tim predicted that this 20 by 20 ft. feature would contain large quantities of brick at a depth of about four feet.

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Field technician Alex Glass has the unenviable task of balancing on brick rubble as she digs!

And sure enough, after several days of careful troweling, Alex and Annette came upon a layer of brick rubble, about three feet under the ground surface! Way to go, Tim! The rubble has been removed and preliminary testing suggests that the cellar fill extends at least another foot or so deeper, possibly bottoming out on a brick floor. Unfortunately, the cellar soil has not been particularly artifact-rich, so we don’t yet have a good date on the filling of the cellar. In addition to wine bottle glass, oyster shell, and a few fragmented white clay tobacco pipes, the crew did find this nice brass buckle. Curator Sara Rivers Cofield believes it could have been part of a horse harness. We hope that continued work in the cellar will yield further clues about the function of the building and its construction and destruction dates.

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Ornately shaped brass buckle from the cellar fill.