Artifact of the Day for May 31st, 2017 — Pearlware saucer

What a rainy day…with several successive showers it was a bit challenging, but we prevailed. Although at one point, we abandoned Nic to the rain! [zoom in to see he doesn’t seem too bothered!]

Nic is entirely too happy to be digging in the rain.
Nic is entirely too happy to be digging in the rain.

Today’s artifact came from the basement area of the structure. Faisal and Bjorn have been doggedly removing giant boulders and buckets of mud and 1960s garbage. At the base of one of the basement walls, tucked in under some large boulders came this:

Pearlware Spongeware Saucer
Pearlware Spongeware Saucer
Underside of saucer
Underside of saucer

This was quite exciting as it is the only complete piece of ceramic we have recovered from the site to date!

Our piece is what is known today as pearlware, but this is a term that did not really exist back at the time this piece was new. The history of pearlware is quite interesting (and long!) but here is a brief summary:

The most inexpensive type of pottery used for tablewares in Britain in the later 1700s was something called creamware. These ceramic pieces had a creamy off-white colour clay, and a glaze that was tinted very lightly green by iron oxide. The resulting ceramic looks creamy white and even somewhat dingy. Creamware dates from approximately 1762-1800.

In an effort to produce ceramics that looked more like expensive, hard to get and very prestigious porcelain pieces from China, potters in Britain experimented with a glaze that had a small amount of cobalt added to it. This in essence worked like laundry blueing, where the blue tint cancelled out the yellow/green tint and made the ceramics appear brighter and whiter. These pieces were called China glaze if the decoration style looked like Chinese motifs or Pearl White if not. Pearlware dates to approximately 1775-1840, but is in decline after 1820.

So the glaze of this saucer gives us one clue as to its age. You can see on the underside of the saucer that where the glaze has pooled, it has a definite blue tint to it. So it falls into the pearlware category.

The second piece of information we have is the decoration style. This style is known as spongeware, because it was made by applying paint dabbed on by a sponge, and then the glaze is applied on top. Common sponge designs are diamonds, stars, daggers, flowers, scrolls, geometric shapes, and eagles.

In our particular case, there are two different sponges cut into different shapes. One forms the pattern around the outer rim of the saucer, and the other the small dots inside the rim. This type of decoration appears to have been almost exclusively destined for markets in the United States and Canada from 1820-1860. Later spongeware examples (1840-1860) have the same kind of decoration style but no longer have the pearl glaze on top.

It is estimated that only 1-2% of sponge decorated wares were marked by their manufacturers! Check out Part 1 of Maker’s Marks for a discussion of how makers marks are useful in archaeology.

Unfortunately, our piece does not have a maker’s mark, but we know that most potters who produced sponged or painted wares did not mark their wares. In addition, the sponges cut into different shapes were sold by suppliers to potteries, it is not possible to ascribe a certain shape or style of decoration to a particular potter.

Even so, there are slight temporal variations in decoration style that can help us to date a particular ceramic piece, even without a maker’s mark. Cut-sponge designs are most popular in Britain from the 1840s to the 1870s, but are introduced in the 1820s. Coupled with the pearl glaze, this suggests our piece must have been manufactured some time between 1820-1840.

Unfortunately, the problem with ceramic pieces is there is often a lag associated with them. Pieces can be kept and used for a long time after manufacture, so we don’t know how well this saucer relates to the occupation of this structure. But certainly it gives us another piece of information to add to our understanding of the site.

In looking through the washed ceramics back in the lab, I can see at least two other pieces from saucers similar to this one. Now we have a complete saucer, it’s easier to identify the little fragments!

Artifact of the Day for May 30th, 2017 — ‘Frozen Charlotte’ doll

I was excited to see this find Brianne and Raine made while excavating a test unit in the field between our operation areas. I first encountered one of these in 2015, during an excavation on the east bank side of campus. The story behind these dolls is so interesting…

Head of a Frozen Charlotte doll.
Head of a Frozen Charlotte doll.

Let’s go back in time to 1843. The humourist Seba Smith published a poem called “A Corpse Going to a Ball” in The Rover, a Maine newspaper. This poem was a cautionary tale against vanity, perhaps, as it was inspired by a grim tale published on February 8, 1840 in the New York Observer of a young woman who froze to death on the way to a New Year’s Eve ball on December 31, 1839.

An excerpt:

“O, daughter dear,” her mother cried,
“This blanket ’round you fold;
It is a dreadful night tonight,
You’ll catch your death of cold.”

“O, nay! O, nay!” young Charlotte cried,
And she laughed like a gypsy queen;
“To ride in blankets muffled up,
I never would be seen.”

The poem became a folk song called “Young Charlotte” or “Fair Charlotte”, which was mainly spread and popularised by a blind singer from Vermont named William Lorenzo Carter who was a contemporary of Mark Twain.

An excerpt of one version:

He stripped the mantle off her brow,
And the pale stars on her shone,
And quickly into the lighted hall,
Her helpless form was borne.
They tried all within their power,
Her life for to restore,
But Charlotte was a frozen corpse,
And is never to speak more.

Another version excerpt:

He took her hand in his, O God, ‘t was cold and hard as stone;
He tore the mantle from her brow and the cold stars on her shone.
Then quickly to the lighted hall her lifeless form he bore,
For Charlotte was a frozen corpse and a word spake never more.

Parallel to this folk song gaining popularity was the export of small porcelain dolls from Germany beginning in 1850. These were known as “Naktfrosch” which colloquially translates to “naked babies”.  Made of one piece with fixed limbs, they were inexpensive to produce and came in all sorts of sizes, ranging from one inch to over 18 inches tall. Some were glazed, and some had minimal colouring like the hair and face painted. They were also known as pillar dolls or solid chinas. Some were called bathing babies, and marketed as Victorian bath toys as they were only glazed only on the front, meaning they float in water on their backs.

Tiny Frozen Charlotte doll recovered on a Trent campus excavation in 2015.
Tiny unglazed Frozen Charlotte doll recovered on a Trent campus excavation in 2015.

The popularity of the song quickly mapped on to these small immovable dolls and they began to be known as Frozen Charlottes, or in the case of some male version of the dolls, Frozen Charlies. The tiny ones cost a penny and were popular prizes, and sometimes were sold in a tiny coffin with a blanket/shroud. They were also sold undressed, which means that mothers and daughters could make little clothes for them.

Frozen Charlotte doll with handmade dress.
Frozen Charlotte doll with handmade dress and shoes.

In Britain, the smallest versions (called pudding dolls) were often baked into puddings or cakes as a prize at Christmastime and other holidays, similar to the baby figure incorporated into Mardi Gras King cakes.

Example German-made Frozen Charlotte dolls similar to the one we recovered.
Example German-made Frozen Charlotte dolls similar to the one we recovered.

The earlier Frozen Charlotte type dolls were manufactured until about 1914, and were replaced in the 1920s by similar bisque dolls mass-produced in Germany, Japan and the United States. The later models have many more types like aviatrix, flappers, adults, babies, and anthropomorphised animals. They generally fell out of favour in the 1940s.

We have now found parts of at least three different types of dolls this season. Two were cloth-bodied dolls with porcelain limbs and head, and now we have a Frozen Charlotte!

Site update and Artifact of the Day for May 24th, 2017 — Watch chain

It was a busy day on site today! We had a visit from Rory MacKay, a historian and archaeologist who is working on an upcoming book about the history of Algonquin Park. We also had a visit from Dr Michael Eamon, who brought some visiting academics from a university in Queensland, Australia to see our research project in action. Thanks for coming by, it was lovely to have visitors!

It’s hard to believe we have only been in the field for a couple of weeks. All of a sudden, it looks like a proper site. We didn’t even know if there was a south wall when we started because of all the material on top of it, and now it has been beautifully excavated, primarily by Don, Jacob and Brianne.

Jacob standing in the western side of the South Wall slot-trench.
Jacob standing in the western side of the South Wall slot-trench.
Brianne standing in the eastern side of the South Wall slot-trench.
Brianne standing in the eastern side of the South Wall slot-trench.
Soil changes are incredibly important to us when trying to puzzle out how a site was created. Jacob is excavating into an orange layer of soil, which is different from the dirt that was higher up in the trench. The bottom course of wall stones are set onto and into that orange layer.
Soil changes are incredibly important to us when trying to puzzle out how a site was created. Jacob is excavating into an orange layer of soil, which is different from the darker brown dirt that was higher up in the trench. The bottom course of wall stones are set onto that orange layer.
Since we know where the South Wall is, Don is now excavating an area where we think the corner of the structure must be.
Since we know where the South Wall is, Don is now excavating an area where we think the corner of the structure must be.
Faisal and Bjorn have been steadily removing a layer of rubble, rocks and dirt that appears to date to some time in the 1960s. We think this portion of the site was a root cellar or basement, that was filled in around the time of the creation of Trent University.
Faisal and Bjorn have been steadily removing a layer of rubble, rocks and dirt that appears to date to some time in the 1960s. We think this portion of the site was a root cellar or basement, that was filled in around the time of the creation of Trent University.
We can tell now that the corner where Faisal is working is knitted together, which means the corner was built at the same time, and not added on to later. We are still trying to sort out the walls to the right of the photograph.
We can tell now that the corner where Faisal is working is knitted together, which means the corner was built at the same time, and not added on to later. We are still trying to sort out the walls to the right of the photograph.
Nic and Emily are still working away at the North Wall.
Nic and Emily are still working away at the North Wall.

Today’s Artifact of the Day comes from Nic and Emily’s excavation area. It’s a pocket watch chain!

Pocket watch chain, made of brass and copper, probably was silver-plated.
Pocket watch chain, made of brass and copper, probably was silver-plated.

A lot of archaeology is consumed with telling time. Most often it relates to determining how old something is, or the order in which things happened. Today, our artifact of the day really has something to do with time!

I think most students in my classes now use their phones as a way of telling time, instead of a watch. Pocket watches were the first wearable tech! Up until the start of the 20th century, the pocket watch was the main way people kept track of time.

1943 marks the end of the use of the pocket watch in a professional environment. In that year, the British navy issued Waltham pocket watches with black dials and radium-coated numbers for visibility in the dark, in anticipation of the D-Day invasion. The Canadian navy also ordered the same for their sailors.

Pocket watches always make me think of the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland.

Illustration of the White Rabbit consulting his pocket watch from "The Nursery Alice", 1890, Lewis Carrol.
Illustration of the White Rabbit consulting his pocket watch from “The Nursery Alice”, 1890, Lewis Carrol.

An essential furnishing relating to the pocket watch was the strap or chain attached to it that allowed it to be anchored to clothing, usually a waistcoat, lapel or belt loop. This prevented the watch from being easily stolen or dropped.

Men wearing watch chains attached to belt loops.
Men wearing watch chains attached to belt loops.

The latter part of the nineteenth century saw the first attempts of standardizing time, not only for creation of time zones but also because of ever increasing need of precise time measurements in many scientific experiments and public transportation systems. For example the Great Kipton Train Wreck of 1891 happened because of train engineer watches were 4 minutes out of sync.

A popular style was the Albert chain, supposedly named after a style of chain worn by Prince Albert (1819-1861), consort to Queen Victoria.

Prince Albert and Queen Victoria
Prince Albert and Queen Victoria

Man wearing straight watch chain. Man wearing straight watch chain.

Man wearing straight watch chain.

The Albert chain often has a small pendant called a fob or drop (similar to a charm bracelet) that could be exotic coins, medals, or symbols or coats of arms of fraternal organizations.

Man wearing Albert chain with fob.
Man wearing Albert chain with slider and fob.

The double Albert has two symmetrical lengths of chain draped between each vest pocket, one attached to a watch, the other to a small item like a match case or pocket knife. Also suspended from the T-bar in the middle is a fob or drop with a medal or token.

Man wearing double Albert watch chain.
Man wearing double Albert watch chain.

So why did such a ubiquitous and useful object fall into decline? The big drawback to pocket watches are they are impractical to consult when one is on the go. Like distracted driving today, fumbling around in a pocket while riding a horse or driving a car or bicycle could cause disaster.

So intrepid sporting folk of the nineteenth century began to fashion wristlets, which were essentially leather straps that secured a pocket watch around the wearer’s wrist. Parallel to this was the development of beautiful, delicate watch faces and formal watches, worn by women as jewellery.

Wristlets meant that time became accessible through a quick glance instead of an ostentatious perfomance of drawing a watch out of a pocket. But they didn’t catch on at first, mainly because they were too closely linked to women’s fashions and were thought to be silly and effeminate.

This changed during World War I. Officers in the field quickly appreciated the advantages of easily accessible time, which was instrumental in implementing new forms of attack such as an opening barrage of gunfire to shock and stun the enemy, followed immediately by a coordinated onrush of soldiers.  Wristlets became trench watches, which had large, round faces, heavy black numbers on brilliant white porcelain faces, and radium coated numbers that glowed in the dark.

Suddenly, wristlets were seen as manly. By the 1930s, they were known as wristwatches, instead of wristlets. By 1935, 85 percent of the watches made in the United States were wristwatches, compared to only 15 percent in 1920.

Glanceability (ability to quickly see time without obviously turning to look at a clock) and visibility (luxury brands) meant wristwatches became really important signals of efficiency and status by the 1950s.

Nowadays, however, the access to time is everywhere. We have clocks on our phones, microwaves, coffeemakers, computer monitors. Most people can get along just fine without wearing a watch to tell time!

Artifact of the Day for May 23rd, 2017 — Fighting Conch shell

 


While not on par with some of our previous AotDs, today’s find is still quite interesting! While this isn’t technically an artifact, because it hasn’t been modified by humans, it certainly is a long way from its natural habitat!

Strombus pugilis 'Fighting Conch' shell, probably a juvenile.
Strombus pugilis ‘Fighting Conch’ shell, probably a juvenile. Could also be Strombus alatus ‘Florida Fighting Conch’

This artifact was found in the trench at the southern wall of the structure. Other artifacts found with it today include some blue edgeware ceramic pieces that date to approximately 1840s-1860s. While this is not definitive proof that the shell is this old, it does suggest that it is not recent in origin.

Strombus pugilis is a kind of sea snail, that lives on sandy and muddy sea bottoms, and its range is Bermuda, southeastern Florida, the Caribbean Sea, and southwards to Brazil. Because there is not much of a flare on the outer lip of this specimen (called alation), it was probably a juvenile individual. It could also potentially be a Strombus alatus, which, depending on who you follow is either a variant population of Strombus pugilis, or a closely related subspecies. Strombus alatus lives in slightly more northern distributions, from North Carolina, Florida, Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana, and Texas down to the east coast of Mexico.

Strombus alatus Gmelin, 1791; juvenile; Sanibel Island, Lee County, Florida, USA; Coll. Gijs Kronenberg no. 1661
Strombus alatus Gmelin, 1791; juvenile; Sanibel Island, Lee County, Florida, USA; Coll. Gijs Kronenberg no. 1661
Strombus pugilis Linnaeus, 1758; juvenile; Porto Belo, Santa Catarina State, Brazil; at 2-4 m on muddy sand; 3/1985; Coll. Gijs Kronenberg no. 0728
Strombus pugilis Linnaeus, 1758; juvenile; Porto Belo, Santa Catarina State, Brazil; at 2-4 m on muddy sand; 3/1985; Coll. Gijs Kronenberg no. 0728

Marine shell from the Gulf of Mexico has been found included in burials thousands of years old in Peterborough County. This indicates First Nations groups had thriving trade networks with more southern populations over millennia. Could this have  been a nineteenth-century find of a much older shell?

If not this old, could this shell be a souvenir brought back from a sea voyage? A well-travelled relative’s gift? Part of a Cabinet of Curiosities?

While we’ll probably never know how an ocean snail from the tropics ended up buried beside a wall in nineteenth-century Nassau Mills, it’s fun to think about, isn’t it?

 

Artifact of the Day for May 19th, 2017 — Batteries

We have recovered three different graphite rods from the site. Two have ridges, and one is a simple cylinder. One came from the midden, and two came from in or near the clinker pile. They have been really puzzling me since I first saw them in the field.

Now they are washed, it is easier to determine some of the details. I noticed the first one had some kind of brass or metal plate screwed in to one end. The second one had that part broken off, but it seemed to have some kind of black matter wrapped around it, that had been there a long time, as the rod has made a clear impression in the material. The outer surface of the material seemed to be made of some kind of white material.

Having these pieces of information, I started sleuthing. The invention of the internet has made finding information a lot easier in some cases, however, you have to know how to describe things correctly, and also be able to filter through immense amounts of material.

Carbon rod
Carbon rod
Second carbon rod, with associated matter and impression from the rod.
Second carbon rod, with associated matter and impression from the rod.

In the end, I am pretty confident that I know what these are, I think they are remnants of old batteries.

There were several kinds of early batteries. In 1859, the Planté lead-acid cell was invented, in the 1860s the Gravity cell/Daniell cell, and the Leclanché cell was invented in 1866. There is also a dry cell battery, which is the one we are most familiar with today.

Samson Battery, wet battery in a glass jar.
Samson Battery, wet battery in a glass jar.
Samson battery, note the shape of the graphite rod that sits in the copper sulphate solution.
Samson battery, note the shape of the graphite rod that sits in the copper sulphate solution.
Example of a Leclanche-type battery, like the Samson brand battery above.
Example of a Leclanche-type battery, like the Samson brand battery above.
Example of a modern dry-cell battery.
Example of a modern dry-cell battery.

This means these carbon rods can come from several different types of applications. These could be from a “Horseless Carriage” battery. I have found several examples of rods of the same dimensions and configuration labelled as battery rods from automobiles dating to the 1900s. Date-wise, this is not out of line with other artifacts we have recovered on site. The Canadian General Electric Company, Limited first leased and then bought the parcel in 1900, so perhaps these were lying around something to do with testing or prototypes that someone had taken and thrown out later.

Example carbon rods labelled as coming from a Horseless Carriage.
Example carbon rods labelled as coming from a Horseless Carriage.

They could also be some kind of storage system, or used to power a telephone or telegraph connection. Other batteries I found were used to power phonographs, or to store electricity from wind-power. It appears as though we might have examples of zinc-carbon and Leclanche batteries present in our assemblage.

My journey down the rabbit hole also helped me to tentatively ID another artifact we recovered. It is a porcelain tube with a bevelled lip on one end. In my searching, I found a discussion of someone testing Leclanche wet cells, and they posted a picture of used zinc, and beside it was something that looks very like what we found.

Artifact that may be part of a Leclanche cell.
Artifact we recovered that may be part of a Leclanche cell.
Used Zinc from a Leclanche cell -- see how the part on the right looks like the artifact we found?
Used Zinc from a Leclanche cell — see how the part on the bottom looks like the artifact we found?

 

 

 

 

 

The next step is to research further and see if I can narrow down a specific use for these batteries, or at the least a particular time period.

 

Artifact of the Day for May 17th, 2017 — The North Wall

To date, we have been featuring artifacts of the day that are easily understandable as artifacts. Artifacts are things made or modified by humans, so, the coins, buttons, nails, ceramics, glass etc. that we have been finding are all artifacts.

Today’s artifact is a wall! We don’t normally consider things like houses or walls or roads to be artifacts but they are. In fact, we can think of a house as an assemblage of various artifacts that have been combined into a new thing, that just happens to be hard to take into the lab to analyse!

Why is this wall so exciting?

Well, we have made a huge amount of progress on parts of the site. For the most part, the students have been broken into smaller task groups and are working away on particular areas of the site. We are extremely pleased with their progress to date. Even with all this progress, however, there are still some major questions about what is going on with this site!

For example, we have uncovered many walls, but the relationship between these walls and the artifacts around them is still unclear. As we excavate, theories about the site are constantly being created, tested and revised. One big question we have had is if the northern-most wall extends to the west of the visible rectangular area we have already uncovered.

This is very important to find out, as it will tell us which parts of the site were likely outside the structure and which were likely inside. There are several competing theories operating at the moment, and it is quite satisfying to find proof of something that is based on a hunch or impression.

We have bits of walls popping out here and there, but no clear link between them. So, one task today was for Emily and Nic to work on a 2-metre-square excavation unit situated around the known north-west corner of the wall. One hypothesis was that the wall extended to the west, suggesting the structure encompassed a larger area. The competing hypothesis was that the wall ended at the corner visible, and thus the area to the west was actually space outside a structure.

Emily at the start of the day, in the 2x2m excavation unit. This photo is looking north, and the rocks to the lower right you see is the known back wall to structure 1.
Emily at the start of the day, in the 2x2m excavation unit. This photo is looking north, and the rocks to the lower right you see is the known back wall to structure 1.

As Emily and Nic worked on their excavation, they learned at some point, a layer of orange sandy soil has been bulldozed around over the edges of the site. We found evidence of this in other areas we have excavated, and we know it has something to do with levelling the surrounding area to construct a playing field.

Under the layer of orange sand was a layer of dark greyish brown soil, which has artifacts in it like nails, glass, ceramics, a horse bit, and other metal fastenings. Excitingly, they also found evidence of a course of stones in line with the known wall.

Emily and Nic are excited to show you their wall! This photo is looking east.
Emily and Nic are excited to show you their wall! This photo is looking east.

You can see the known wall behind and to the right of where Emily is standing. It is no longer in line with the buried wall, because at some point, the stones on the known wall have slumped over to the south. Emily is standing outside the structure, and Nic is standing inside the structure.

This suggests the entire area bounded by walls was inside a structure or structures. Other evidence from other parts of the site suggests perhaps this part of the structure may have been dug out to be a basement or root cellar. Faisal and Bjorn have been working at removing more of this fill layer from another section of this potential cellar area. Trevor and Sam have been working hard in a small trench at the south-western part of the site to fully expose one section of wall. Jacob and Brianne have been working on exposing the southern section of wall from the structure. Raine has been working with Shannon and Marielle in a second excavation area across the field.

Trevor working in the trench. By the end of the day, Sam and Trevor had excavated down to 80cm deep! A lot of hard work!
Trevor working in the trench. By the end of the day, Sam and Trevor had excavated down to 80cm deep! A lot of hard work!
Brianne and Jacob excavating a slot-trench along the southern wall boundary. Sam is in the background at the screen, and Trevor is behind the plywood sheet, which is placed there to shore up the wall.
Brianne and Jacob excavating a slot-trench along the southern wall boundary. Sam is in the background at the screen, and Trevor is behind the plywood sheet, which is placed there to shore up the wall.
Emily and Nic are at the top of the photo, working on their 2x2m unit by the north wall. Jacob and Brianne are at the south wall.
Emily and Nic are at the top of the photo, working on their 2x2m unit by the north wall. Jacob and Brianne are at the south wall.
Raine is taking elevation data across the field to the second excavation area. She's standing on a bucket because someone tall (James) set up the totalstation this morning.
Raine is taking elevation data across the field to the second excavation area. She’s standing on a bucket because someone tall (James) set up the totalstation this morning.

We also had a visit from Marketing and Communications, and they interviewed some of the students and filmed some video of the excavation. They’ve also published a news article about our excavation.

We look forward to getting back on site for Tuesday and further refining our hypotheses! Tomorrow is a lab day, so I will be reporting on our progress there.

Artifact of the Day for May 16th, 2017 — 1882 Penny (Victorian Large Cent)

Today’s find was by Brianne, who found this coin while clearing back an area under the clinker pile by a mortared stone wall!

Canadian Victorian Large Cent, 1882.
Canadian Victorian Large Cent, 1882.

These coins were designed by Leonard C. Wyon in 1858. There are six variants in the obverse. 1858 and 1859 were the first two issue years and portrayed a youthful Queen Victoria in a laurel wreath.

1859 Canada Penny with Young Victoria.
1859 Canada Penny with Young Victoria

It appears as though Wyon took some artistic liberties, as Queen Victoria was already 39 at the time the effigy was struck. The legend on the obverse says “VICTORIA DEI GRATIA REGINA.” which means “Victoria, by grace of God Queen”.

In 1876, Obverse Style 1 was created, which is a more mature effigy of Queen Victoria wearing a crown instead of a laurel wreath. The lower jaw is very round and curving back to the throat. This style appeared on coins struck from 1876-1886.

Obverse style 1, Mature Queen Victoria. Note the rounded, taut jawline.
Obverse style 1, Mature Queen Victoria. Note the rounded, taut jawline.

A second obverse effigy was produced beginning in 1881 and was used until 1892. This is another more realistic portrait of the Queen’s visage. In this style, you can see the jawline is less taut and there is a dimple under the chin.

Obverse Style 2, Mature Queen Victoria. The difference is the chin, with a little softening of the jawline and a dimple between the chin and throat.
Obverse Style 2, Mature Queen Victoria. The difference is the chin, with a little softening of the jawline and a dimple between the chin and throat.

There were three other obverse styles, all showing the effigy with increased age changes. Obverse Style 3 (1891-1892) has a quite old-looking queen, with a square chin and a pronounced dimple between the chin and throat. I can’t help but think that Queen Victoria was not happy with that bust, as it only lasted for one year (and it wasn’t very flattering). Mind you, she was 72 at the time!

Obverse Style 4 (1892-1901) is almost identical to Obverse Style 1, with the taut jaw, but the lips are thinner and closer together.

Please visit this site for other images of the obverse styles on non-archaeological coins in much better condition than ours!

Our coin is Obverse Style 1, with the rounded jaw instead of the dimpled jaw.

1882 Penny Obverse Style 1.
1882 Penny Obverse Style 1.

The reverse design, also engraved by Wyon, depicts a maple wreath with sixteen leaves. The wreath surrounds the legend “ONE CENT” and the date. In some years, the Royal Mint contracted with Ralph Heaton & Sons to mint these coins. Coins minted by Heaton display their “H” mintmark on the reverse. As you can see, our coin has an “H” under the date, which means our coin was minted in Birmingham, at the Heaton Mint.

Traces of the Heaton Mint remain. It was still active until 2003, after a 209-year existence. Although most of the building was demolished in 2007, the facade on Icknield St, Birmingham, UK was preserved and is now a lodging.

Our coin also has a Provincial reverse, which was also found on coins dated 1858, 1859, 1876H, 1881H. The Provincial reverse has medium sized leaves attached to a thin vine and very thin leaf stems. The punch began suffering damage after sinking the first three dies, so as a result all later dies either have damage to the wreath or show signs of re-engraving where the engraver repaired the damaged section by modifying the working die. After 1884, a new reverse was used that has a thicker vine, thicker stems, and larger leaves.

1882 Penny Reverse. The H stamp is centred below the 1882 date stamp.
1882 Penny Reverse. The H stamp is centred below the 1882 date stamp.

Using the avoirdupois system (common in English-speaking countries before metric) of a 16 ounce pound (7000 grains), pennies for the province of Canada (1858 onwards) were 4.54 grams, and so 100 of them made a pound. Since they are also an inch in diameter, that meant they were often used for quick reckonings, as they had a useful length and weight!

Our penny, though, is a Dominion one, as it comes after the Dominion of Canada was formed. The first Dominion-issued coinage was 1870, but the one-cent coin wasn’t issued until 1876. These pennies are 5.67g (meaning it takes 80 coins to make a pound), 1-inch diameter, and composed of 95.5% copper, 3% tin, and 1.5% zinc.

This is basically what our coin would have looked like if it was in good condition instead of being buried for (at most) 135 years!
This is basically what our coin would have looked like if it was in good condition instead of being buried for (at most) 135 years!

In 1882, the property was owned by Irwin, Smith and Boyd, and the big sawmill was still in operation.

Artifact of the Day for May 15th, 2017 — Silver(plated) spoon


Today’s artifact of the day is a teaspoon manufactured by McGlashan-Clarke Silverware company.

Back side of teaspoon. Mark says "NEVADA McG. C. Co."
Back side of teaspoon. Mark says “NEVADA McG. C. Co.”
Front of teaspoon
Front of teaspoon

It was originally plated in silver, and is similar to the Hanoverian style, also known as Rat-Tail. It’s called Hanoverian because the popularity of this pattern spanned the reigns of three kings of the House of Hanover dynasty, George I, George II, and George III (part). The Rat-Tail name comes from the earliest of the Hanoverian pieces, around 1710, as there is a long piece of metal added to the reverse of the bowl of the spoon in the form of a Rat-Tail, and a central ridge in the front stem.

The Hanoverian/Rat-Tail pattern came back into favour towards the end of the 19th century and throughout the 20th century. The Hanoverian form of this pattern, which this spoon belongs to has a pip at the front of the stem and no rat-tail.

Another name for this style of handle is a Fiddle pattern, as the stem resembles the fingerboard of a violin, and the body has cutouts with smooth parallel lines extending towards a rounded terminal.

This teaspoon was manufactured by the McGlashan-Clarke Silverware company, which was the first company to make silverware in Canada. One source I found says the company was founded 1880 in Humberstone (now Port Colborne, Ontario) by Leonard McGlashan and Dr Gardner Clarke. In 1895 the firm moved to Niagara Falls to take advantage of the hydro-electric power available there. The company remained in family hands until it closed in 1955.

For a sad story related to the McGlashan family, check out this article written by Sherman Zavitz, official historian for the City of Niagara Falls.

Another source contradicts this finding a little bit, and provides a date range of 1899 to 1910 for the company and says the company was based in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada and also Muncie, Indiana, USA. Obviously a little more research is in order!

This particular teaspoon is stamped Nevada. I am not sure if it refers to the pattern name, or is a trademark name for the nickel-silver. I did manage to find a picture of one in close to original condition.

Silverplate McGlashan-Clarke Nevada teaspoon
Silverplate McGlashan-Clarke Nevada teaspoon

In terms of dating this piece, we know it has to be older than 1955, as that is when the company closed. Based on the other source, it could even be no younger than 1910.

This piece was found embedded in a pile of clinker, coal, and rusted nails, not far from where the harmonica was found. Tomorrow we are going to investigate under where the pile was and see how the clinker pile relates to the underlying deposits and a wall that is close by.

 

Artifact of the Day for May 11th, 2017 — Harmonica

Today’s artifact of the day came from a really unassuming pile of what looks like a dump of coal, slag, clinker and burnt metal. Nic and Lisa were excavating this context, and discovered a harmonica!

General diagram of a harmonica.
General diagram of a harmonica.

We recovered parts of the comb, two reed plates, and scraps of a leather and oilcloth case.

Harmonica recovered from clinker pile.
Harmonica recovered from clinker pile. The top strip of metal is one of the reed plates. The bottom strip has some of the comb preserved, and underneath that is the other reed plate.

The comb is the wooden part sandwiched between the reed plates, divided into cells that channel air flow. Most harmonicas now have plastic combs, because wood absorbs moisture from the player’s breath and can expand and affect the playability of the instrument.

The reed plates consist of thin reeds made of strips of metal attached to a rectangular metal plate. Air blown into the comb causes the reeds to vibrate and make the note.

Often the reed plate was nailed to the comb which is the traditional method of attaching them. Other harmonicas have the reed plates screwed in to the comb. Even rarer are cover plates held to the reed plates simply with tension, like some World War II  models. Having the reed plates screwed or bolted in means you can replace reed plates when they get worn and start to fall out of tune. In the lab, we’ll be able to determine which is the case with our harmonica.

The last part of the harmonica is the cover plate, which help to direct and project the sound, and also to protect the reeds. While we found parts of the case, we don’t have the cover plates! This is an interesting preservational puzzle. The wood of the comb was (mostly) preserved because the reed plates are made of brass, and the metal salts have acted to preserve the wood. Perhaps the cover plates were a different kind of metal or wood that did not preserve as well as the rest of the artifact.

Upper reed plate for the harmonica.
Upper reed plate for the harmonica. We can’t tell in this state if there were nails to attach it to the comb.

I took a look at the reed plate, and I believe our harmonica is a tremolo harmonica, using the Weiner system because there are two reeds for each note. Tremolo harmonicas have a unique sound because the two reeds for each note are constructed at slightly different tune, so their waveforms interact against one another and make a warbling sound.

Tremolo harmonicas are very common for playing folk music, and are probably the most common type of harmonica in the world.

Artifact of the Day for May 10, 2017 — Sickle


Today’s artifact of the day is a sickle. Like yesterday, this was found in the midden area (garbage dump) beside the one structure we are investigating. This sickle is made of iron, and has a sharpened blade edge on the inner curve. It would have been mounted in a wooden handle, which has long since rotted away. Also, the tip has been broken off.

The first settlers in this region would not have had access to any kind of agricultural machinery, so most of the work would have been done through hand tools like the sickle.

Sickle recovered from dig site.

This sickle is interesting because it has a smooth blade. Serrated blades appear to have been the preferred choice in American agriculture by a wide margin.

H. Stephens’ 1855 work “Book of the Farm: Dealing Exhaustively with Every Branch of Agriculture” (really, that is the actual title), Volume 2, No 1, has a detailed comparison on pages 329-333 contrasting the cutting techniques of serrated vs. smooth sickles.

The main drawback to a serrated-bladed sickle is that it only cuts on a stroke when the tool is being pulled back to the reaper, and not on the motion of putting the tool into the standing grain.

The smooth-edged sickle is much faster at cutting than serrated sickles, but there are several drawbacks that negate the advantage gained in quickness. Most notably, they had to be made to very exact curvatures in order to achieve the cutting effect. The other drawback was they needed to be sharpened in the field, as the smooth blade dulls much faster than the serrated blade.

Example of a sickle with wooden handle.
Example of a smooth sickle with wooden handle.

Another drawback that occurs to me is the smooth-edged sickles required a slashing motion in order to cut the stalks. Holding a collection of stalks in one hand while slashing at them with a thin whippy blade that can easily cut to the bone seems to be a bit of an occupational hazard!

The blade on this sickle (like the one we found today) is in-line with the handle, suggesting it was used for cutting something that didn’t require a cut at ground level, as the wielder’s knuckles would brush the ground.

Harvesting by sickle was slow and backbreaking work. The invention of the scythe was a major development in agricultural technology even before more recent industrial mechanised agricultural machines. Here is a video showing a comparison of harvesting using a scythe vs. a sickle.

As an interesting side note, we found more Eclectric Oil bottles today. The bottles we have recovered so far must have come from different bottle manufacturers because you can see they are different! The one on the top recovered today is aqua, and the one on the bottom (the Artifact of the Day for yesterday) is more green, and is slightly smaller in volume.

Two bottles of Eclectric Oil