Broaddus Flats
Assassquin Plantation
44Hn254
 


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Dover Steam Mill
44Go327

18th Century Cellar
44Hn121


19th Century Kitchen Cellar
44KW236

Rock Springs
Native American Camp Site
44Hn51

Summer Hill
Mehixton Plantation
44Hn94

 

 
"Artifactual Evidence"
page 2 of 7

Ceramics

Such a certainty is derived not from the nails or the window type so much as it is from the ceramics. It was the ceramic fragments lying on the surface of the field that inspired the author to undergo an excavation back in 1992. From the first weeks of the dig, we uncovered a wide variety of pottery, both locally made and European—all of it pointing to a turn-of-the-century date for the occupation of the site.

European wares were, by far, the most numerous in the topsoil, and English were the greater part of these. English delftware fragments were scattered all over the site and also accounted for the larger percentage of pottery in the cellar / refuse pit. The delftware is white tin-glazed earthenware (buff-colored body), some with blue exterior-painted motifs such as lateral stripes, floral or vine designs. A small percentage has polychrome exterior and interior designs, some are even geometric. Nearly all fragments come from functional vessels, such as porringers, bowls, plates, candlesticks and a possible teapot or posset pot. Ceramic experts in Colonial Williamsburg have identified these ceramics as ‘almost certainly Bristol delft.’ The cellar fill yielded fragments of two small bowls typical of those produced by Bristol potters from the late seventeenth century until the late eighteenth. Excavators also recovered the everted rim pieces only to two larger, shallow bowls decorated in blue, red, and green, under an off-white (slightly bluish) glaze. These rim shards are identical to those of a bowl reported in Frank Britton’s ENGLISH DELFTWARE in the Bristol Collection. Unfortunately, the only delft bowl center recovered is neatly chipped off above the foot rim so that neither of the rim shards match the center. This center shows a floral arrangement coming out of a square, footed base. While the exact design on this bowl center is not pictured in Britton, two have the exact same rim motifs. Britton dates them both from c. 1730.

Several of Britton’s small bowls have identical shapes as our two, as well as the typical six floral panels on the exterior, as ours have. The most complete of our bowls has a large number ‘4‘ painted on the inside bottom of the vessel. The meaning of this number is apparently lost to history. Bristol bowls of this size and shape were made in the 1730-1740 time range.

The basement / refuse pit and topsoil layer have occasionally turned up thicker and cruder made delft fragments. These always have wider blue lateral lines and are most likely to ointment pots or the larger open-mouth jar. The base to one ointment pot exhibits a tic-tac-toe design on the bottom interior. We have been able to recover only a few fragments of a delft vessel painted in a deep sea blue and having several holes—probably a strainer or sieve.

Several relatively intact delft porringers have been recovered, representing three sizes. All are plain white, have open lattice-like triangular handles, and rest on relatively high foot rims. The presence of porringers is almost irrefutable evidence of children in the household, however, to date very little else has been uncovered to confirm this—only a single clay (mottled brown) marble recovered from the topsoil in a square to the east of the cellar / kitchen. Lately, I have read that old porringers may have been used for bloodletting in the 17th and 18th centuries—home “cures.”

Fragments of Rhenish stoneware abound on the site, and these do not vary in appearance from those on any other colonial dwelling of the period. Vessel types also appear to be familiar—jugs, chamber pots, and mugs. In all these fragments, only two ciphers (with English monarch) have been found—a broken one with only the letter “R” and a complete “GR.”

English white salt-glazed stoneware has been found but only in small quantity. The only recognizable vessel has been a graceful, 4” waisted teacup with a simple brown iron-oxide painted line around the exterior of the rim. This vessel exhibits a graceful handle often found on better-made saltglaze pieces of the first half of the eighteenth century. Much more common saltglaze ware on the site are fragments of the thicker, cruder gray ware coated with a white salt-glaze slip on the bottom half and above with a mottled brown. A few of these also have the crowned WR excise stamp just below the rim. The author has heard this crude line of tankards, etc., called “Fulham ware” because of its development in the late seventeenth century by John Dwight of Fulham.

Stonewares on 44Hn254 are not limited to crude vessels. The cellar gave up several fragments of a harder, thinner chocolate brown-glazed mug, again with the crowned WR excise stamp (this time under the handle). A little more common but having no excise stamps are the many fragments of the shiny-surfaced, brown stoneware generally called “Nottingham” ware. The list of English stonewares continues—two matching 7.5” pots with everted rim, WR excise stamp, medium brown top half and dirty yellow bottom, and attractive reeded handle; not much of a large-mouth pot with flat and rounded rim, fine red-brown gritty exterior (no glaze) and green-yellow lead-glazed interior; half of a 6” chamber pot with mottled brown slip and heavy lead glaze inside and out; fragments to several lead-glazed low pie dishes(?), all in a medium brown; large fragments to a 13”-diameter bowl with flat, low sides, a short, flat rim, all surfaces (inside and out) covered with a drippy two-tone brown slip, and heavy lead glaze all over except under the slightly concave bottom; a few fragments to a small mug, crudely made especially the handle, glazed on the interior (and only along the exterior rim) with a green-yellow glaze; fragments to a well-made (and heavily fired) bowl(?) in reddish brown with a black glopped-on glaze on the interior only. [Note: Recent conversation with Linda Westerman, a ceramics expert in Fredericksburg, revealed that at least some of these “WR” marked vessels may have been products of William Rogers, the so-called “poor potter of Yorktown,” in the early 18th century. Linda is also checking for any pottery that may have been made by the potter Morgan Jones of Westmoreland County, Virginia, just north of Hanover County. Morgan’s pottery dates from the late 17th century.] The “ugliest ware the author has ever seen” award goes to a thick, very crudely made stoneware vessel (no rim pieces found) with no exterior slip or glaze (no attempt to disguise the finger dents either!) and a poorly executed gray glaze on the interior. This ware is probably a locally made one.

It is germane to the study of stonewares from 44Hn254 to note the conspicuous absence of certain wares common on slightly later sites in Virginia. We have not found a single shard of the popular mid-century “dot, diaper and basket” or “barley” patterns of English white saltglaze first made about 1740. Nor have we uncovered a fragment of the “scratch blue” stoneware, not even the slightly earlier “scratch brown” (oxide) of the 1720s and 1730s. Excavators have found none of the dark brown to black so-called “Burslem” ware, which had a very white interior slip and thin white lateral lines on the exterior.

Excavators began finding the small fragments of a ware that the author cannot put a finger on. Eventually, we concluded that they may belong to two different vessels, even though they all have similar apple-green and yellow slips with lead glazing. The body is buff-colored and thin, with the yellow glazing on the interior and neatly on the exterior rim only; green slip starts under the rim and appears to have been dabbed on so as not to run down. An inch under the rim are two concentric lines in the same fashion as on our chamber pot. Consultations with two ceramic experts have produced only puzzled expressions.

Fragments of the plain, locally made ware known to archaeologists as “colono-ware” have been found throughout the site, however, the greatest proportion of these has come from the cellar / refuse pit. Four distinct vessels have been recognized; all were flat-bottomed bowls with fairly low sides (3” – 3.5”). The clay is identical from vessel to vessel—light reddish-brown in color (MSC 5YR 6/3) with a small proportion of fine shell. All vessels have flat, everted rims that vary in width from _” to 1 3/8” ; none have a foot rim. The treatment of the rim seems to be the distinctive feature since even the diameter of these four vessels are nearly identical—about 13”. The widest rim has heavy diagonal lines punched into its edge about every _”; a _” rim has lightly punched lines on the edge about every _”. The author will make no attempt in this writing to speculate on who produced this ware and from which kiln(s)—this has been explored by several writers in recent years. Suffice it to say here that it appears on many turn-of-the-century sites in Virginia, and this one is no exception. Archaeologists excavating on many colonial sites around the Chesapeake Bay have found colono-ware in context with late Indian pottery (Col. Howard MacCord has identified ours as mostly Potomac Creek series) and with so-called “Chesapeake pipes.” These pipe fragments account for a very small percentage of those found on 44Hn254 and do not exhibit any new decoration patterns on either the stems or bowl parts. No whole Chesapeake pipe bowls have been found, but several pieces have the familiar star-burst pattern so common on many sites of this period.

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