We are a week and a half in to the field school, and it is at this point that our crew are starting to develop and practice the skills they have learned. Here is Lorna’s account of her day. — Kate
Today was the first day that I flew completely solo. At this point in the excavation, many people are working on side projects and learning exercises. So my work unit was empty except for me. This also means that it was a rather slow day for artifact discoveries. I found a continuation of the clay pipe stems and a lot of glass shards. It was a slow-moving process of shovel shining and then sifting through my buckets of dirt. Fortunately, it wasn’t a very hot day and I was able to finish up the context I was working on before lunch.
For a period in the middle of the day, I was recruited to complete a sketch plan of the well’s outer wall. It was a nice break from the physical work and I enjoy using artistic skills in the field. However, my most exciting find came at the very end of the day. It was a little metal button, likely from a shirt or jacket. Overall, it was a good day. Everyone seemed to be in high spirits, and we made good progress. I can’t wait to get back out there again tomorrow!
We were very pleased to welcome Rob MacDonald and Katie Hull from ASI to our site today. I didn’t get a picture because I was too busy chatting with them! They also suggested a new course of interpretation for our “wall”, that it is in fact a kind of french drain. Indeed in retrospect it would make sense why the large unit above it filled with water so readily once we had breached the soil around the stones. It was still doing its job at least 150 years later! This also explains why it seemed too enormous to be a structure. A lot of archaeology is working with hypotheses but also being able to change them as new data comes to light!
As a result, we have begun to tie in some new 2x2m units at the north end of the grid closer to the well, and hopefully we will find evidence of a structure there. We have already uncovered one feature that will require further investigation tomorrow. We had thought the cedar planks identified in 2009 were in this unit, but they are actually a metre north and east of this unit. So this dark stain is actually a new feature and will require excavating all the units around it in order to have the Standards and Guidelines required 2m buffer.
Michael continued with his intrepid crew who have been learning to do Stage 3 assessment units. The current units were finished today, so he will take another bunch of students over to the other site tomorrow.
Today’s artifact of the day was half of a pair of scissors found by Alyssa, as she worked on taking her unit down another 10 centimetres.
The exact origin of scissors is a mystery, but is seems as though shears were first used in the Near East. The pivoted or cross-blade forms we think of as scissors first appeared in Rome in the first century AD. The father of modern scissors is said to be Robert Hinchcliffe, of Sheffield, England, who was the first to use steel and the first to mass-produce scissors by casting beginning in the mid 18th century.
It is difficult to imagine daily living without scissors. Opening packages and letters, cutting out recipes, cutting thread and cord, making clothes, slipcovers and home accessories, cutting cuticle, trimming nails, hair cutting, picking flowers, darning, cutting samples, patching, cutting out paper dolls, metal work, and upholstery are just a few of the few familiar, everyday things which scissors accomplish, but which their absence would cause drudgery.
J. Wiss and Sons Co. 1948
We can group scissors into categories based on types and time period they are from, and in particular this grouping is based on size and blade-to-handle proportions. In addition, certain blade forms are diagnostic for certain activities, but it must be acknowledged that these differences might be difficult to identify in more multipurpose forms.
Even though scissors might have an intended function, they are often employed in actual functions that can raise the ire of the owner, as anyone who has borrowed fabric scissors and used them on paper can attest!
Often scissors were tin or silver plated in order to make them appear silvery in appearance. If our scissors were ever plated, that has long disappeared. We can tell, however, that they were made from iron or steel and not brass or silver.
They measure approximately 3.5-4″ long, which based on a brief search of 19th century scissor ads could fit in the “ladies scissor”, “pocket scissor”, or embroidery types.
Scissors are also featured in folklore and superstition. For example, it was thought that if a pregnant woman slept with a pair of scissors under her pillow towards the end of her pregnancy, it would “cut the cord” and prompt labour. Hanging scissors by one bow so they open to form a cross is supposed to keep evil spirits out of your home. You aren’t supposed to hand scissors to a friend either, because they will sever the relationship!
I would be very excited if we find more household or sewing related tools on site, and maybe the other half of these scissors will appear at some point and help us to narrow down their function.
Doda, H. 2021. Scissors, Embellishment, and Womanhood. Acadiensis 50(1): 62-95.