Another Bottle from the Collection

The olive-green mouth blown bottle pictured above is part of the Fairfax County Archaeology and Collections Branch collection. In the 19th century, “egg-shaped” bottles were commonly associated with carbonated beverages such as mineral water (Jones 1989). The bottle’s rounded base was created so that it could not stand upright (Lindsey 2019). This one is a bit unusual because a pontil is visible on the bottom. For information on mouth-blown pontils see Glass Bottle Pontil Scarring.



Jones, Olive and Catherine Sullivan. 1989. The Parks Canada Glass Glossary for the Description of Containers, Tableware, Flat Glass and Closures. National Historic Parks and Sites Canadian Parks Service Environment Canada, Canada. Originally Published 1985.   accessed November 27, 2019.

Lindsey, Bill. 2019. Historic Glass Bottle Identification & Information Website. Bureau of Land Management & the Society for Historical Archaeology. Electronic.    accessed November 27, 2019.

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The Holidays are Approaching!

Here are a few artifacts associated with dining. They are all from recent excavations across Fairfax and likely date from around the colonial to early national periods. The artifacts, like most artifacts that we find, are only fragments of objects. Occasionally, some of them can be mended allowing us to have a better idea of a vessel. Pictured above: a tined fork with a bone handle, a knife blade, a blown olive-green bottle base and neck, and a partially mended creamware bowl.

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History and the Horseshoe

Regular, or keg, shoe

by Daphne Ahalt – Assistant Lab Director

Horseshoes are often found during archaeological excavations and are considered a common artifact on both colonial and post-colonial sites. Being able to identify the parts that make up a horseshoe, and the different forms horseshoes have taken through time, can facilitate functional analysis and period-dating of the artifact when enough of the shoe has been recovered.

Domestication of the horse exposed the animal’s hooves to environmental conditions that caused excessive wear and breakage. When a horse is “employed on hard roads, broken ground, and in a humid climate”, such as Virginia, “to carry and draw heavy loads at different degrees of velocity, and forced to stand on stony pavements during resting hours, (hooves) are unable to meet the many severe demands imposed upon them.” (Fleming, 1875) To counteract and prevent the damage, shoes were applied, and their form and function evolved over time.

Parts of a horseshoe include the branches, the foot, the margin, the fuller, and the heel. The branches are the curved sides of the shoe, while the wider, flat section of a branch is called the foot or ground surface. Margins are the edges of the shoe and are where the indented channel containing nail holes, called the fuller, is located. At the open end of each branch is the heel. If the heel is thicker and turned down it is considered a calkin, or calk. The tab, when found at the junction of the branches, is called a toe clip.

According to Ivor Noel Hume (1969), fullered shoes appear in a Virginia context dating to no later than 1660. He also states that seventeenth-century shoes have “either three nail holes in each branch or three in one and four in the other.” Shoes made during the early seventeenth-century tended to have heels that turned inward, the turn inward becoming so prominent in the late-1600s as to have a “keyhole appearance”. This shape continued through the early eighteenth-century but is rarely seen in post-1740 contexts.

Eighteenth-century shoes are known to have three to up-to-as-many-as ten holes per branch. The heels begin to turn outward, and by the late 1700s were wide enough to create the iconic U-shape we see today. The surface of the shoe became narrower and the shoe thicker as the horseshoe’s transformation continued into the early nineteenth-century.

The most common form of horseshoe is the regular u-shaped shoe. When this type of shoe is machine-made it is called a keg shoe. The regular, or keg shoe, would have been, and still is, used on riding and carriage horses.

The rim shoe is similar to the regular shoe except that it has a large groove that runs along its middle. The groove acts as a fuller and provides additional traction. This type of shoe is used for sporting horses where speed and quick turns are required, such as barrel racing (HG Horseshoeing 2015).

Horseshoe with uneven calkins at heal

Calkins, or calks, the projections that appear at the heel and along the branches of the shoe, are used to prevent slipping. For frost and snow, the calks have a feathered edge that create a slight “spike” that grips icy surfaces (Fleming 1869). They also allow for the fuller to be raised off the ground for horses with diseased hooves or a sensitivity to shoeing nails.

Horseshoe with toe clip, post-1850

The toe-clip indicates a shoe produced post-1850. A metal tab protrudes upward over the toe of the hoof. Its primary function is “to stabilize the shoe and in doing so better improve the union between the shoe and the hoof” (Poe 2010). A toe clip lessens twisting and rearward movement, or “slipping back” of the shoe. It allows the hoof to expand and contract normally. Farrier Mike Poe states that when a toe clip is used, “if a horse pulls a shoe, the chances of the hoof being damaged are lessened dramatically.”

Historically forged of iron by blacksmiths, the industrial age transformed horseshoe manufacturing and the materials they were made of. Today, a farrier is most likely to shoe a horse with machine-made shoes of steel or aluminum, although some owners still prefer to forge custom shoes of iron that they may apply themselves. There are many types of modern shoes, each having its own function. The shoes discussed above are the types of shoes that are most likely to be found during archaeological excavations.

And if you use a horseshoe for nothing more than to bring good luck, always hang the shoe heels-up…otherwise all the luck will fall out!


Fleming, George. 1869. Horse-shoes and Horse-shoeing: Their Origin, History, Uses, And Abuses. Chapman and Hall, London. Page 610. E-book accessed October 2019.

Fleming, George. 1875. Practical Horseshoeing. D. Appleton and Company, New York. Page 57. E-book accessed October 2019.

HG Horseshoeing LLC. 2015. Hoof Care for Horse Owners: Common Types of Horseshoes. WEB. Accessed October 2019.

Hume, Ivor Noel. 1969. A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, PA. Pages 237-239.

Poe, Mike. 2010. Toe Clips: Explanation and Applications. Alpha Farrier Services. WEB. Accessed October 2019.


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Bare Island Projectile Point

by Melissa LeeArchaeological Technician

The Bare Island projectile point is a type of point that is common throughout most of the Northeastern United States from Connecticut to Northern Virginia. The point was originally named by W. Fred Kinsey in 1959 based on points found on Bare Island in Pennsylvania. This point is also among the “most abundant points found in the Coastal Plain region of the Patuxent and Potomac rivers” (MAC Lab 2012). Another prominent site that this point has been identified at is the Accokeek Creek site in Maryland. This site features 269 examples of the point type. At this site, the point was given an alternate name, which was Holmes. There is some debate as to whether these two points could be considered different types based on the concavity of the base, though they are generally recorded as being the same type due to the similarities. This point has a wide date range that expands from 5000 BCE – 1000 BC (MAC Lab 2012). Although a more concise date range is often estimated to be from 2500 BCE – 1600 BCE. The Bare Island point is generally, however, considered to be a Late Archaic point (VDHR Collections). The origin of the Bare Island point is debated, as some believe that it is in conjunction with other points in the Lamoka Cluster, whereas others believe it is a re-sharpened Duncan’s Island point (Fogelman 1988).

The Bare Island projectile point is most commonly made of quartzite, specifically gray, red, or brown quartzite, although other materials may have been used (Stephenson 1963). Other materials may have included rhyolite, quartz, and siltstone (Fogelman 1988). Bare Island points are medium to large in size, ranging from 45-83 mm in length, 16-30 mm in width, and 8-15 mm in thickness. The point features a symmetrical blade with a sharp tip. The symmetrical blade tapers into small rounded shoulders that lead into a small straight-edged stem. The stem is always smaller and narrower than the rest of the point and features parallel sides and a straight base, although occasionally, the base can be slightly convex or concave. Some evidence of grinding can be present on the base of the point (MAC Lab 2012).

This projectile point type was generally created by the process of percussion, in which the stone that would become the point was chipped away at by hitting it with another object to create the point (MAC Lab 2012). The percussion flaking could have been achieved by hitting the stone to be shaped into the point with another stone, bone, wood, or antler (Merriam-Webster 2019). The chipping on these points was generally done in a randomized pattern. These points could have been used on a variety of tools, including spears and arrows (MAC Lab 2012).

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MAC Lab. 2012. Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland. Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab (MAAC Lab). Originally Published 2002. Electronic. accessed August 15, 2019.

VDHR Collections. 2018. Native American Comparative Collections. Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Electronic. accessed August 15, 2019.

Fogelman, Gary L. 1988. Projectile Point Typology for Pennsylvania and the Northeast. Fogelman Publishing Company.

Stephenson, Robert L., and Alice L. L. Ferguson. 1963. The Accokeek Creek Site: A Middle Atlantic Seaboard Culture Sequence. University of Michigan.

Merriam Webster. 2019. Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Merriam-Webster Incorporated. Electronic. accessed August 20, 2019.

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