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"Artifactual Evidence"
page 6 of 7

Buttons and Sleeve Links

To date, we have found glass in only one remaining category—as the face to late 17th and early 18th century buttons and sleeve links. As of mid-2003, excavators have recovered two whole (both halves connected by a metal loop) glass-faced sleeve links; through the glass one can make out a design in gray (flower?) on one of these. A similar style (i.e., pewter back, drilled hole eyelet, and flat top glass insert) sleeve link was found in the cellar / refuse pit—this one caused Ivor Noel Hume to raise an eyebrow. Beneath the glass one can clearly make out the bust of a man in relief, face and coat painted red, pony-tail wig in gray, and the ruffles of his white shirt protruding from his chest. Noel Hume suggested this may have been the king, perhaps James II or William III. The only other flat-faced specimen is of a black glass (or onyx) and is the sole sleeve link where the face is attached to the pewter back by tiny prongs. The topsoil has given up two additional clear cut glass sleeve links—one with a dome top, the other with a fancy molded top coming up to a point. The final sleeve link half is brass and fashioned like a tiny scallop shell; this one also has the oblong loop through the eyelet.

Buttons from 44Hn254 range widely in size and shape, but nearly all are one-piece brass or pewter. The thick, solid-cast ones have been identified as “earlier,” while the larger, flat ones “later” (perhaps as late as 1750). The late 17th century buttons all show signs of hand-filing of the post that is the eyelet, and the hole is hand drilled and sometimes off center slightly. Only one of these caused the author to raise an eyebrow—a solid-cast pewter (or some close alloy) example with slightly convex face, on which is scratched the initials “ T P.” (See "History of the Broaddus Flats Site" to find out who Thomas Poindexter was.) No matter fancy or plain-faced, all other buttons except two are solid-cast in pewter or brass. One rare example of two-piece construction has a thick, gold gilding. Mr. Noel Hume examined this specimen carefully and said it is an early button, perhaps mid-17th century, and that it is early to be made in this manner. Unfortunately, this button was found in the refuse-filled cellar and not in a datable, stratified layer; therefore, the author can only say with any certainty it was discarded sometime after about 1720. The other hollow button is of brass, two-piece construction with a high dome face (plain) and has a square brass loop-type eyelet. This example may have had a gold or silver wash once. Only one clothing “frog” has been recovered, a simple iron loop shaped like a tiny horseshoe with curled ends. All in all, our button and sleeve-link collection shows some variety in construction techniques, sizes and styles, but, apparently this is typical of Anglo-colonial homesites of the 1690s-1750 period in Virginia.

The author is indebted, once again, to Mr. Ivor Noel Hume for his aid in identifying the lead bale seals, or more correctly the two-out-of-four disks belonging to (actually) one seal. They are tiny but did not need much cleaning to reveal their clear figures. The first found shows the portrait of a man with the Latin motto “Magna Brit Rex” encircling the head on the obverse and a blank reverse. Noel Hume says this is probably James II or William III. The second, found four years later, shows a lion passant over a crown, with the Arabic number 3 adjacent to both. This latter symbol is almost certainly that of King William III, who reigned with his English wife Mary from 1692 until her death in 1698, and in his own right for another seven years until the ascension of Queen Anne to the Throne. Mr. Noel Hume told me that we need to find one of the other disks, preferably the one with the seal of the city from which the bale was exported. With an almost certain connection of this site to the British port city of Bristol, this one would be nice! Rarely does archeology turn out that neatly, however.

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