Day 4: Rainy Day Lecture
Due to Tropical storm Andrea, our field school was moved indoors (no site digging) for both Thursday and Friday class, so I am trying to play catch up. I apologize for the delay in my daily activity update, but I promise to be updated by the middle of this week, so you can stay tuned for more fun adventure updates to come!
Thursday morning began with glass identification and characterization, which outlined the different types of glass we might be finding on our Monticello digs, such as the Dark Green Bottle Glass (DGBG) which I have mentioned before. Aside from the simpler side of glass identification, we learned about the seals which would have been a hung piece of decorated glass (separate from the bottle glass) with the owner’s seal impressed on it. This was meant to prevent any theft of the owner’s stored foods and spirits, and is now a key find which can help to not only date, but also possibly identify the person to whom they once belonged. Within the category of glass we discussed the traditional pharmaceutical bottles, made of non-leaded glass to make various dark colors, and lead glass to make the bottle clear. These pharmaceutical bottles were often hand-blown with molded design or branding for the specific product it held. This lecture surrounded Ivor Noël Hume’s “Bottles, Glass Liquor; Bottles, Glass Pharmaceutical, Drinking Glasses and Decanters, and Tobacco Pipes and Smoking Equipment,” in A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial American (University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia), which also broke down the size and shape alterations of wine bottles throughout the decades of the colonial period, which has been a terrific reference resource for me as a field school student trying my hand at historical archaeology for the first time.
Image #1 (18th century, lead-glass decanter shapes and various designs, Noël Hume, 197.)
Moving from the wine bottles and pharmaceuticals, we began what I found to be a brilliant lecture on using the various popular styles of stemware on wine glasses from the early Colonial period. Leaded glass, which causes its clear appearance, was used to make the stemware of the early American colonies (England and Europe, as well). The drinking glass stems from across the decades of colonial sites are another tool archaeologists can turn to and examine the designs to accurately pinpoint a site’s occupation timeline by a certain group of people. The balusters on drinking glasses, which is the entire section of the “stem” of the glass, were decorated with various designs and bubbles (air twist & enamel twist, out of fashion by 1775) in order to determine the most-likely date range of site occupation on multiple levels, be that either with ceramics, tableware, or glassware.
Image #2 (Various drinking glass stems, or “blausters,” and the designs of different decades, Noël Hume, 191.)
Continuing on from the glassware, were the tobacco pipes, which were mostly locally made for the Monticello area and were originally peace gifts from the Native Americans from the nearby lands, given in trade, or as symbols of cooperation. The pipes from the early colonial period (Monticello as well), were made of red-bodied clay and stone, until the European began importing clay pipes (white in color), made of kaolin clay from Britain or the Netherlands. Pipes as archaeology artifacts often have teeth marks from where the owner would run the pipe along, or through his teeth and were usually left unglazed, although the mouthpiece may have glaze. A slip is poured into a pipe mold and creates a very smooth surface, which is easily separated from the gritty pipes made by the Native Americans. The bowl size on a pipe can also be used to make inferences surrounding what the current price of tobacco might have been during the colonial times, this is due to the tobacco quality as well, if you purchased poor (cheap) tobacco, you are going to need more of it to stuff in the bowl to smoke with any satisfaction.
Image #3 (English clay, American, and Virginian tobacco pipes, Noël Hume, 303.)
After this lecture, we moved on to what Dr. Neiman refers to as Geekology. Today’s subject was Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis in the Field of Archaeology. I enjoyed the fact that throughout this lecture, both Dr. Neiman and our TAs kept saying, “It will be okay.” At the end of this lecture, I was the only one who seemed to really grasp the concepts and this is my first-go, so trust me- you will make it. Qualitative Analysis is the naming and classification of multiple categories, including the use of specifics, such as naming (i.e. ceramic), nominal (numbering from 1- any number), and ordinal (i.e. smallest to largest, rankings), both of these are related. Quantitative covers the dimension of artifacts, the location, frequency (count), weight, ratio scale, abundance, and percentages of artifacts found in a quadrat or other dig location. These forms of analysis bring up the discussion of accuracy versus precision. Accuracy is the degree of bias and precision is the spread or range of values. In any science, when regarding a certain result or outcome you must always look for reliability, or the ability to produce the same results, this is the same in the field of archaeology.
In order to ensure our artifacts are recorded correctly, we use both direct and indirect measurements. Direct measurement means using a known measuring system, such as length, width, height, count, or frequency. Indirect measurement means taking a direct measurement and making an inference about the artifact or site, for example, the size of the sub-floor pits to gage the number of inhabitants of a slave home, texture description (due to the level of subjectivity in interpretation), averages and estimations (artifacts found per quadrat). In order for archaeologists to put all of their fieldwork into prospective, it is necessary to graph, on a large scale the specific artifact finds you want to look at and begin forming multiple hypotheses off the results you find. In order to successfully graph, we used the Binford formula, which for the purpose of length, I will skip over. It is through the Binford formula, one is able to take a tray full of ceramic sherds, separate them into their various categories, count them out, average them, and then begin the seriation process or ordering the ceramics from earliest to latest. This process also ensures that as much information from your excavation site is available for future archaeologists to reference and review as well. You never know what the future holds!