Artifacts from a 19th-Century Chesapeake Bay Schooner

Ship parts from the Widgeon, a bay schooner, were found during a 1997 archaeological investigation of St. Leonard Creek and are currently in the conservation department at the MAC Lab. A schooner is a type of sailing vessel that was originally used by the Dutch in the 16th and 17th centuries. By the early 18th century, however, schooners were used more extensively in the United States than anywhere else in the world. Used for everything, from privateering to offshore fishing, the most common schooners had two masts. One of the objects recovered from the site of the Widgeon is a hoop of iron that would have encircled one of these masts. This “mast band” would have been used as reinforcement for the wooden mast and also would have served as a place to attach ropes and tackle. Conservation of the Widgeon’s 19th-century artifacts has taken several years and the mast band is one of the last objects still in treatment.

Iron mast band still attached to remnants of the wooden mast.

View from the deck of the Widgeon.

*FUN FACT: After the Civil War, Maryland opened the Chesapeake Bay to oyster dredging. The use of dredges, versus tongs, created a need for larger, more powerful sail boats to haul the dredges across the oyster beds. The first vessels used were the existing schooners, like the Widgeon. Eventually, the bugeye was developed specifically for oyster dredging in the Chesapeake Bay.

Intern Spotlight

There are several new faces at the MAC Lab these days, and one of them belongs to delightful Airiel Scotti who will be interning in the conservation department until May of next year. Airiel comes from Chico, California where she attended California State University, majoring in Anthropology and Museum Studies with a focus on Archaeology. Airiel completed her archaeology field school at an Etruscan excavation in Italy (at one of the oldest operating field schools in Europe – pretty cool). Not only is Airiel excited to be learning conservation, but she is also very happy about the location of the MAC Lab because she enjoys exploring new places and has never been on the east coast before. Currently, along with working at the lab, Airiel continues her education with chemistry classes at the College of Southern Maryland and she is planning to go to graduate school (possibly overseas) for object conservation. With her industrious nature (she has to be forced to take breaks) and big smile we’d love to keep her around forever, but she’s a busy lady with big plans!

Airiel uses tannic acid to treat iron objects
from the Angelica Knolls site in Calvert county