For the past four years, Jefferson Patterson Park in Museum has hosted a blog entitled “Dirty Little Secrets.” We have enjoyed bringing you news of happenings at the park, about artifacts in the MAC Lab collections and about objects that have come here for conservation. But starting next week, our blog will take a new and exciting direction. Its focus will be on archaeological artifacts and how they help reveal the larger stories of Maryland’s past. Most of the artifacts highlighted will be from the collections of the Maryland Historical Trust, but upon occasion we will feature guest bloggers writing about artifacts curated at other institutions. Because the blog’s focus is changing, we are also changing its name to “Maryland History by the Object.” Continue reading
The Maryland Archaeological Conservation (MAC) Laboratory is pleased to announce they have selected Christopher Shephard as the recipient of the 2013 Gloria S. King Research Fellowship in Archaeology. Mr. Shephard is a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology at the College of William and Mary. He is researching the exchange of copper and shell objects among Algonquian societies of the late Woodland through early Colonial periods and the rise and transformation of chiefly authority across the southern Middle Atlantic. During his fellowship, Mr. Shephard will be studying several archaeological collections curated at the lab to look at questions related to the nature of competitive gift-giving and feasting in the negotiation of power and authority among the indigenous societies of the Tidewater. Continue reading
by Patricia Samford & Tim Thoman
If you visit the Indian Village over the next few days, you just might catch Village Manager Tim Thoman and park volunteers Marco de Pompa and Simon Gannon working hard to solve an archaeological mystery uncovered in the 1970s. Continue reading
A few months ago at the Smith’s St. Leonard site, volunteers and crew discovered a small colorless glass fragment. Finding glass at an archaeological site is not that unusual since it preserves fairly well in the ground. So what makes this little fragment so blog worthy you ask? This piece is very thick, with a square shape and curved figures molded on the sides. We were a little stumped when the piece was initially found. What type of vessel was it from? Is the molding a design or letters? Is it even contemporary to the site (1711-1754)? Left scratching our heads, the artifact was put back into its bags and we continued with fieldwork.
There’s a new exhibit at the Visitor’s Center that will run through October 17. The temporary exhibit titled “Over and Under: Accessories and Undergarments of the Early 1800s” features original pieces that went under or over a person’s outfit to create the romantic look that people associate with the early 19th century. Accessories include a dignified top hat, a man’s tobacco pouch, and showy beaded purses, while rare undergarments will educate viewers about clothes not often seen in period art. Highlights include knit socks with the date “1819” on them, a corset and shift marked with the name of their owners, a “figure enhancer” used to strategically stuff a corset, and a pair of silk garters embroidered with the flirty French warning, “Halte la, on ne passe pas” which means “Stop here, go no further.”
The exhibit is designed to coincide with the JPPM 1812 Fair and Reenactment September 22, but the items exhibited show trends in fashion throughout the first half of the 19th century. The objects are not part of JPPM’s permanent collections, but instead came together based on loans offered by JPPM staff. Sara Rivers Cofield, Federal Curator at the MAC Lab, has been collecting clothing and purses since her grandmother, Charlotte Rivers, helped her buy her first antique purse over 20 years ago. Now family heirlooms from Charlotte Rivers, who died last October at the age of 99, are included in the exhibit. Betty Seifert, JPPM Curator, contributed her great grandmother’s knitting needles to the exhibit, and Michele Parlett, Public Services Coordinator, loaned the top hat and its carrying case from her family’s antique shop, Keeper’s Antiques, in Charlotte Hall, Maryland.
In order to flesh out the themes that the staff collections could illustrate, we turned to independent scholar and collector Mary Doering for some additional pieces. Mary, who teaches courses on costume history for the Smithsonian-George Mason University Masters Program on the History of Decorative Arts, often loans her collections to museums and historic sites, including current exhibits on the War of 1812 and the Civil War at the Maryland Historical Society. By combining the high-quality pieces in Mary’s collections with the personal heirlooms and collections of staff, the exhibit offers rare garments and accessories, eye candy, and personal stories. A little something for everyone!
We have a new face starting at the lab this week—St. Mary’s College of Maryland student Aryel Rigano will be analyzing animal bone from the Smith St. Leonard site for her senior research project. Hailing from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Aryel is a senior Anthropology major at the college. Aryel spent last semester abroad in Athens, Greece, where she studied archaeology and had an internship at the American School of Classical Studies. Her intern project there involved studying human remains.
Aryel will be analyzing mammal and bird bones from the Smith St. Leonard Plantation, an 18th-century site here on the park grounds. The bone are from a cellar, measuring 4’x 5’x4’ deep approximately, which was located immediately in front of the kitchen fireplace. Stratigraphic evidence suggests the cellar was filled rather quickly. Agateware utensil handles, which were introduced in the late 1740s, provide an estimated date for the filling of the cellar. In 1748, John Smith inherited the family plantation, and it appears he filled the cellar sometime before his death in 1754, when the site was abandoned.
Kitchen waste was abundant in the cellar, with large quantities of oyster shell, charcoal, and bone recovered. Preliminary sorting of the bone shows that a large variety of domesticated livestock and wild game species are present. Fish remains are particularly abundant, and range from small net-caught individuals to very large drumfish, and include a striped burrfish, a puffer-type species. Other artifacts found in the cellar include copper, pewter, and iron dining utensils; a bone or ivory folding fan; buttons, cufflinks, buckles, and beads; several hoes; iron fireplace hardware such as tongs; and various keys, locks, and hinges.
Aryel admits that she has always been interested in bones and in particular what modifications or alterations to the physical structure of the bone can reveal about disease, injuries, or even how a piece of meat was prepared. We are pleased that she has decided to pursue her research interests with one of our archaeological collections and look forward to working with her over the next nine months as she prepares for graduation.