Monday Update and Artifact of the Day for May 14th, 2018 — 1854 Penny Token

It was a bright and warm day today, perfect for shifting gears on site. We started diversifying, with some students beginning their assessment units. These are 1x1m excavations that are very typical in contract archaeology work.

Our project on the structure is a block excavation, which means we are excavating large areas of the site in order to answer particular questions of interest to us such as the sequence of wall construction, or the timing of the use of the site.

In contract archaeology, an archaeologist is contracted to perform an archaeological assessment because of proposed development. The archaeological investigations are divided into different stages.

Stage 1 is a background study of a site to determine the archaeological potential. Stage 2 is a sampling of the proposed development area by digging 30cm test pits every five metres into subsoil and collecting any artifacts that are present. Depending on what is found, the archaeologist can either recommend that no further heritage concerns are present, or it is necessary to gain more information by a Stage 3 assessment.

Stage 3 generally involves test excavations of 1x1m units over a five metre grid spacing in order to discover the nature and extent of a site, and to see if the site has enough cultural value to warrant a Stage 4 designation. Stage 4 means that either development plans are altered to avoid impacting a site altogether, or, the site must be completely excavated.

So, part of the students’ portfolio in this field school is learning how to lay out and excavate Stage 3 units, because that is often what you spend the summer doing if you are hired by a company to be a field tech.

Reaquainting themselves with the Pythagorean theorem to make sure their units are square.
Joel, Anthony, Katie and Jodie were reaquainting themselves with the Pythagorean theorem to make sure their units are square.
Luckily they have Jolyane and her team nearby so they can sneak a peek into the underlying stratigraphy!
Luckily, Caedda, Sarah, Emma, and Charlotte have Jolyane and her team nearby so they can sneak a peek into the underlying stratigraphy!

Back in the structure, we shifted some people over to drawing, in particular Stephanie and Collette were working diligently at drawing elevations for certain of our wall sections. James got in on the action as well and filled in some of the newly exposed walls in our master site plan.

Stephanie painstakingly drawing the south wall!
Stephanie painstakingly drawing the south wall!
Collette drawing the east wall.
Collette drawing the east wall.
James planning the newly exposed north wall.
James planning the newly exposed north wall.

That doesn’t mean that excavations had stopped completely, though!

Mary continued excavating a fill layer from the top of the midden deposit, so that midden is all ready to reveal its treasures tomorrow.
Mary continued excavating a fill layer from the top of the midden deposit, so that midden is all ready to reveal its treasures tomorrow.
Wayne continued to work on the basement entrance, and found some interesting glass bottles of a stomach remedy, among other things.
Wayne continued to work on the basement entrance, and found some interesting bottles of a stomach remedy, and a toothbrush among other things.
Brooke and Danny continued defining the interior of the north wall.
Brooke and Danny continued defining the interior of the north wall.
Dan and Nic started getting ideas about the basement, in particular how this complete bulb survived under a large boulder!
Dan and Nic started getting ideas about the basement, in particular how this complete light bulb survived under a large boulder!
1854 Bank of Upper Canada Penny Token
1854 Bank of Upper Canada Penny Token

Today’s artifact of the day was another coin (although it was a tie between that and a bone toothbrush so stay tuned for a special post on that because it deserves its own mention)!

Like the other 1852 Half-Penny Tokens, this coin was made for the Bank of Upper Canada. It’s in coin alignment, which means it was minted at Heaton’s Mint in Birmingham, UK. Like the Half-Penny, the face of this coin has St. George slaying a dragon. The 1854 coinage has two variants, one with a plain “4” and one with a crosslet “4”.  Ours is the plain “4”!

If you want to know more about every tiny variation in these coins, please check out this 1934 work by Eugene Courteau, M.D.

As I mentioned previously, a compromise Currency Act was passed in 1853 and proclaimed on 1 August 1854. This act meant that dollars and cents could be used in provincial accounts as well as pounds, shillings, and pence, and were recognized as units of Canadian currency. The final coinage struck by the Bank of Upper Canada was in 1857, as by then they were more seriously discussing the total adoption of a decimal currency. By 1863 the Bank was complaining bitterly that they were not able to disburse their remaining stock of coins due to the shift to the new system. Post-1867, some were able to reach circulation, but the majority of them had been bought by the government and stored as copper bullion! They were melted down in 1873 under government supervision.

If you are interested in the development of Canadian coinage, please check out this excellent booklet published by the Bank of Canada.

Unfortunately, this coin was found in the basement, in a disturbed context. So, even though it is from 1854, which is the year that Charles Perry opened his Nassau Mill, it doesn’t tell us too much other than that.

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