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Artifactual Evidence from the Broaddus Flats Site (44Hn254)

by Tom Hobbs

“It’s not the things they left behind, it’s the things they did that counts…”
—Ivor Noel Hume in the video, Search For a Century

Note: Click on images to view them larger and to read a description.

Nails and Windows

From the very outset of this archaeological excavation in 1992, artifacts flowed into the laboratory. The vast majority of these were, of course, iron rose head nails generally in two sizes—3” multi-purpose, with a large rose head and spatula tip, and 1.5” siding nails, again with the spatula tip. The mere quantity of these latter nails convinced us in a few short months that we were dealing with a post-and-beam structure with clapboard or riven-oak siding. Later colonists may have confiscated much of the brick and hardware from the burned ruin, but many of the nails must have escaped detection. In a typical 10’ square of topsoil (12” deep) near or on the house site, excavators typically sift out one full bag (no fewer than 650).

During the first few months of work, we were also able to determine that the windows were casement type. In a typical square, excavators sifted out several partially-burned and twisted lead strips used to hold the small glass panes in place. Window glass is generally in poor condition, especially after being beat around by the plow for 250 years. However, in the rubble-filled basement discovered in 1994, diggers recovered the disarticulated lead and glass remains of at least one window and the two well-made iron props that held them open. Lying up against the west wall of the cellar, we recovered an entire triangular pane measuring 7” x 4”. A couple of broken iron hinges recovered in the cellar may have served on one of these windows, but they were perhaps left in the ruins of the house because of their condition. No attempt has been made yet to unravel one of the lead strips to discover a date stamped on the interior wall of the lead. This yet-unexplained process was done by the window artisans back in England and has often helped American archaeologists in their quests to find a terminus post quem for the date of manufacture of such windows. The author is almost certain of the construction date for the house (1690s), so dating of the window lead is not deemed essential at the present time.

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