Reaching a better understanding through artifacts

Hello everyone!  Things are getting quite busy, Mother Nature is still throwing us plenty of tough weather, which is slowing up our progress a little bit, but we continue to push on!  And, the students seem to become more gung ho and more intense the more intense the weather gets, which is great!

This site produces artifacts, but not tons of artifacts. In the first years of the new colony of Carolina, material goods were coming into Charles Towne slowly. Even the richest colonists were getting smaller amounts of goods than their 18th and 19th century counterparts did. Most people ate off of wooden trenchers or pewter–both of which don’t survive the archaeological record (we find pewter only occasionally, and rarely ever do we find plates or kitchen wares). So, at the Lord Ashley site, every piece of pottery, glass, tobacco pipe, and nail is like finding dozens of the same thing on later sites. Each small fragment tells us so much about consumerism, access to goods, the economic class of the people, and what the habits of people were in the 1670s.

In the last few days, we have found exceptional examples of 17th century artifacts. Because we recovered these from intact contexts, we are informing all of South Carolina about what the 1670s were like. Context to archaeologists means an artifact found in a particular soil, in association with other artifacts, can bring about an understanding of the date of the soil and what kind of activity produced the soil/deposits and the artifacts that are in that soil. A ceramic sherd that came from a vessel produced between 1700-1780, for instance, found on the surface could have been put there yesterday, or in 1850. But if that artifact was found in a pit feature filled with other trash, and we can’t date the other trash, then we can say that the pit was created between 1700-1780.

Context at the Lord Ashley site is extremely important, because we have had the chance to study so few 17th century sites in South Carolina. One amazing piece of pottery was found as we began to excavate fill from the moat. It is a sherd of Rhenish salt glazed stoneware, produced in GermanyRhenish Lord Ashley starting in the 16th century and we find it in the Charleston area until about the time of the American Revolution. This ceramic sherd shows the more fancier, hand craftsmanship of the earlier forms of this pottery type. It is also known as Westerwald, but more so in the 18th century. In the 18th century, the decorations were becoming more standardized and less artistic in nature.

This sherd shows the more artistic side of this pottery type. It would have been a small jug-like vessel that held liquid. We are excited about it because it came from the moat fill, which was deposited possibly near the end of the settlement’s existence sometime in the mid-1680s.

This other artifact is an intact pipe bowl that we found in a different part of the site, but again from the moat. This pipe bowl was not cleaned out so that we can send it and its contents to our paleoethnobotanist (an archaeologist who identifies past plant remains) so that she can hopefully find tobacco seeds! This will be imporIntact Pipebowltant because if different kinds of tobacco were grown between the British and Native Americans, we might learn where the tobacco came from. Tobacco seeds are some of the smallest seeds that can be found by a paleothnobotanist. We’re all excited about this find! This pipe bowl also has fine rouletting around the lip of the bowl and is representative of 17th century pipes.

These few artifacts tell us a lot about the people who once lived and worked at the Lord Ashley site. They are pristine examples of artifacts from the last quarter of the 17th century. We hope to keep finding these kinds of artifacts next week!

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One Response to Reaching a better understanding through artifacts

  1. English Struth says:

    Can’t wait to hear what you find this week!

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