CART Biweekly Update 6 May 2016


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A Bit about Porcelain


by Haley HoffmanArchaeological Intern

Porcelain is a fairly common fine ceramic type composed of white ball clay and fired at temperatures above 1300°C (2372°F). The paste, or body, is highly compacted and ranges in color from white to greyish blue depending on where and how it is produced. Porcelain originated in China during the sixth and seventh centuries but was not available to the West until the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries through Portuguese and Dutch trade. There are two main types of Porcelain, hard paste and soft paste. It can be difficult to differentiate between some hard and soft paste porcelains.

Hard paste porcelain was originally made by the Chinese and is composed of ball clay and a finely ground feldspartic rock, petuntse. Chinese export hard paste porcelain typically has a blue to grey tint. The paste is highly compact due to high firing temperatures for long periods of time and follows a conchoidal fracture pattern similar to other fine grained materials. The glaze is usually fused to the paste. Many describe the glaze as nearly indistinguishable from the paste.

Soft paste porcelain is composed of a variety of different clays in addition to other ingredients like salt and soapstone. Eighteenth century English soft paste porcelain typically has a whiter body with a glaze that is distinguishable from the paste. The glaze was also made of a variety of different compounds and was a semi-gloss that is often distinct from the body of the ceramic. The paste is less compact, or softer, than hard paste porcelain.


One of the most commonly used porcelain decorative techniques for both Chinese export and English production were blue underglazed painted designs. Typical motifs depicted in this technique included animals, floral design, people, architecture and repetitive patterns. Willow Ware was an extremely popular blue underglaze pattern. The design has a characteristic geometric pattern around the rim and a themed landscape picture in the center.

Porcelain’s popularity, copies and reproductions of previous styles have been produced for centuries, can make dating extremely difficult. Regardless of this setback, scholars are working to identify small distinctions in marks and motifs in designs to help identify them. George Miller is one such scholar who in 2002 published an article on the subject titled, Telling Time for Archaeologist.

Fisher, Stanley William
1969 British Pottery and Porcelain. New edition. June.

Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum Website:
2012 Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland. Porcelain.

Lang, Gordon
1991 Porcelain. Miller’s Publications, June.

Palmer, Arlene M.
1976 A Winterthur Guide to Chinese Export Porcelain. Crown Publishers, New York.

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CART Bi-Weekly Update 22 April 2016


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A Virginia Timeline Part II: Jamestown to Antebellum

By Elizabeth Paynter

CART recently did a blog covering the Virginia Timeline prior to Jamestown using the time periods set by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (VDHR). The material culture of  Virginia changed dramatically once the Europeans settled at Jamestown and the different cultures who lived here met. While this meeting is the stuff of legends, archaeologists focus on the physical evidence that remains behind. Our focus accomplishes several goals. Archaeologists fill in history, verify or sometimes contradict the historic record, and show the physical remains of our history.

The abrupt addition of certain materials makes an archaeologist’s job of recreating details of a timeline easier. The earliest possible date in Virginia for items such as glass or iron alloys is 1607, when Jamestown was established. On top of the change in materials, the written record that still exists from the Europeans both vastly simplifies and complicates the archaeologist’s role. The written record is not always entirely accurate, but it does provide an amazing depth of information. According to that written record, the land in which Old Colchester Park & Preserve (OCPP) is now located was patented in 1666.

Now, following the guidelines for time periods set out by VDHR from 1607 to 1860, here is a brief cheat sheet of sorts.

Settlement to Society (1607-1750) England’s first permanent settlement in the New World was Jamestown, Virginia. This small frontier society explored the landscape, interacted with the local inhabitants, and lived simply in rough wooden structures. The early part of this time is often referred to as the Contact Period. By 1684, down the road from where Colchester would later be located, the first official transport across the Occoquan River was a ferry run by George Mason I. Soon, tobacco plantations were successful and spread and, as a result, so did the importation of indentured and enslaved people to work these plantations.  A few towns, including Colchester, emerged as tobacco inspection stations that provided the entire range of services required and desired by travelers to the burgeoning town.

Colony to Nation (1751-1789) The seeds of the Revolutionary War began in part due to Virginia’s experience with self-government in the House of Burgesses. George Washington, George Mason IV, and Daniel McCarty  were all members of the House of Burgesses resided only a few miles from Colchester. The tobacco port town of Colchester was established on the Occoquan River in 1753 and the 25 acres of land was surveyed into 42 lots. A large portion of what was once the town of Colchester is on current parkland. While only a small part of OCPP, it is an archaeologically and historically important part.

Wheildon Creamware 1745 - 1775

Whieldon Creamware 1745 – 1775

Early National Period (1790-1829) The colonial agrarian society gradually began to accommodate urban centers. Rural dwellings became larger as wealth increased. Nearby river port towns such as Alexandria and Dumfries flourished and numerous towns developed, but Colchester underwent a slow decline  in part because the tobacco industry was also in decline.

Blue Shell Edge Pearlware 1775 - 1840

Blue Shell Edge Pearlware 1775 – 1840

Antebellum Period (1830-1860) Public works began at this time and many towns in the area became prosperous commercial centers. Manufacturing that began in the colonial period were focused mainly on iron-making and milling. All the while the heated debate over the abolition of slavery grew. As commerce at Colchester declined the town waned and most residents moved away from the land in which OCPP is now located. Several groups of newcomers from the North as well as individuals from England, Ireland and Germany purchased cheap land in Fairfax immigrants. The few families that stayed increased their land holdings and focused the land on agriculture .

Stay tuned for more information on later time periods at Old Colchester Park and Preserve.


Sprouse, Edith Moore 1975 Colchester Colonial Port on the Potomac. Fairfax County Office of Comprehensive Planning. Fairfax County, Virginia.

Virginia Department of Historic Resources 2011 Guidelines for Conducting Historic Resources Survey In Virginia. Appendix B. The Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Richmond, Virginia.

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Eagle Festival at Mason Neck State Park

Please join CART, along with many other groups from the area, next weekend (23 April 2016) at Mason Neck State Park.


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CART Biweekly Update: 8 April 2016

08Apr2016 (2).jpgLink for more information on tobacco pipe stem:

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“Try Lorillard’s Tobacco”

By Erica D’EliaAssistant Laboratory Director

ECL201PipStmCART archaeologists have taken a short break from our work at Colchester and have been out digging at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park for the past couple of weeks. CART was asked to do some limited testing of an area of paths slated for upgrades in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act so we can make sure that any artifacts that will be disturbed by the improvements are collected and recorded beforehand. We dug about 75 shovel test pits and 2 test units in the area. We are finding quite an array of interesting artifacts mostly dating between 1843 – 1935 when the Machen family owned the property.

One of the most interesting artifacts we found so far is a white clay tobacco pipe stem. Such pipe stems are fairly common on archaeological sites, but what makes this one special is that it has embossed identifiable letters and a design. Some of the letters are worn off or distorted a making it a little difficult to read. One side says “TRY LORILLARDS TOBACCO” and the other bears the address “16.18.20 CHAMBERS ST”. This is an address in New York City where the Lorillard Tobacco Company operated a retail location out of stores at 16, 18, and 20 on Chambers Street selling tobacco products.

The company was founded by Pierre Abraham Lorillard in 1760 and the snuff-grinding factory operated out of a rented house on Chatham Street. Pierre was killed during the American Revolution and subsequently two of his sons, Pierre (Peter) Jr. and George Lorillard, took over operations. The company moved to a location along the Bronx River around 1790 and then to New Jersey around 1870. The company appears to have stayed in the Lorillard family at least until the turn of the 20th century. Lorillard’s Tobacco Company operated until June of 2015 as the longest running tobacco company when it was bought by Reynolds American.

The wide date range for the company makes dating this pipe difficult, we know retail operations continued out of the Chambers Street location even after the manufacturing location was moved. There is an entry in the US Customs Journal dated 1865 and an advertisement from 1868 both which mention the Chambers Street location. Pipe stems can be used to date archaeological deposits; they tend to get narrower over time. This one measures 5/64th which was most prominent between 1720 – 1750. However, 5/64th pipe stems were also found between 1750 – 1800. Bore stem dating tends to be less reliable you approach 1800, so we looked at other factors which might provide a more satisfactory date.

The context we found the pipe stem in was mixed and contains artifacts ranging from the 18th century to the mid-20th century. The nails that were recovered include a few wrought nails (18th century), cut nails (19th century), and wire nails (20th century). Ceramic types include pearlware (1775-1840), flow blue on ironstone (1845-1900), and black transfer printed whiteware (1785-1864). The form of the pipe, with the steep angle of the stem and large bowl, are characteristic of the mid-to-late 19th century. Since this is consistent with the dates we have for the Machen family’s ownership of the property we’d guess it dates around then.

Further Reading

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