Civil War Archaeology in Fairfax County!!!

Click on the image below for a short story on the Fairfax County Park Authority blog about a recent Civil War discovery in Fairfax County.  CRMPB archaeologists responded and are hoping to use this data to create and interpretive tool for the public.

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Intern’s Experience with Creamware

by Samantha WoodstockArchaeological Intern

As a new intern at CART, so far, I have experienced water screening, picking, and then categorizing artifacts that have been found at the Site 44FX0704 at Old Colchester Park and Preserve. To start the process of going through the bags of fill, the dirt needs to be washed off by water screening. Once the material has dried, picking involves going through what is left and searching for items of historical value. For example, ceramics, straight pins, leads shot, beads, and more are found throughout. These tiny items are extremely difficult to distinguish from the pile of small gravels and other debris. Once bagged and labeled, the artifacts are categorized into specific data tables that incorporate the type, color, what it could have been used for, and from what time period it was most likely originated. One of the most common ceramics found at Old Colchester Park and Preserve is fragments of creamware.c 2015 FCPA CRMPB Type Collection at James Lee Labs

Creamware is a refined white earthenware ceramic with a clear glaze that was used mainly for table and teawares. The body is semi-porous with thin walls and the glaze of the ceramic is from a lead oxide. The color of the ceramic can range from ivory to a yellow tint to a tan color. Creamware pieces can include molded designs as well as other decorative styles such as overglaze transfer print.

c 2015 FCPA CRMPB Type Collection  James Lee Labs Creamware Paste

In 1740, a cream-bodied earthenware with an underglaze blue color was introduced by Enoch Booth and Great Britain started to manufacture it with variations on the decoration. In 1762, when Josiah Wedgewood set up his own pottery workshop in Burslem, England, he developed a cream-bodied earthenware with a lead glaze. Wedgewood’s creamware became known as “Queen’s ware” because Queen Charlotte enjoyed it and appointed Wedgewood as the supplier of her dinnerware. In 1768, he produced a second factory with tools and ovens of his own design. Early creamware was a more pronounced shade of yellow. The softer yellow color started around the 1780s. Creamware can be identified by a yellow or green pooling in the crevices of the pottery. For decoration, Wedgewood often used a feather-edge molded rim pattern. By the second half of the 18th century creamware was the most common type of tableware.

c 2015 FCPA CRMPB Type Collection  James Lee Labs Creamware Pooling

References Cited

The Wedgewood Museum (n.d.) Queen’s Ware. Electronic, wedgwoods/chapter/queens-ware, accessed November 13, 2015.

Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab 2015 Creamware. Electonic,, accessed November 13, 2014

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CART Bi-Weekly Update


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Why do We Dig?

by Jean CascardiCART Crew Chief

“Why do we dig?” Fairfax County Park Authority Archaeologist, Aimee Wells, asked this question to a room full of folks when presenting at the Archaeological Society of Virginia (ASV) Annual Conference on October 16, 2015. What do you think the most common answer was: “because it’s fun!” Anyone who has been out in the field and has had the experience of holding the past in their hands knows that, but there is a different reason that we dig too. There is a lot of legislation on the books at the federal, state and local level that requires archaeological (and other environmental assessment) investigations prior to ground disturbing activities. The most known of these is probably the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) enacted in 1966. However, my favorite cultural/heritage resource law is the 1906 Antiquities Act.

President Theodore Roosevelt is one of the most memorable presidents in United States history. One of his legacies is the Antiquities Act of 1906 (the Act). The Act is the first legislation establishing regulations protecting our cultural and heritage resources. Another thing Teddy did with the Act is provide himself and future Presidents the authorization to “declare by public proclamation” national monuments. The Act made way not only for the creation of the National Park Service, but additional legislation in regards to protecting and documenting our nation’s cultural resources. Another very important part of the four section document is in Section3 requiring permits for excavation on government controlled land. Section 3 was written in response to one of the biggest threats existing to archaeological sites- looting.

Looting, also referred to as pot hunting or relic hunting, is still a very real threat to our heritage sites today. Did you know that relic hunting is illegal on publicly owned land in Virginia? There are state and local regulations that make this activity criminal. Slide1Our state regulation is called the Virginia Antiquities Act and while there is no name for the local regulation it is stated in the Fairfax County Park Regulations Section 1.08 that, “No person shall damage, disturb, or remove any historic artifacts, historic features or other manmade objects from a park without the express written permission of the Park Authority. For the purpose of these regulations, ‘historic artifacts’ are any material remains that give physical evidence of human occupation, habitation, use or activity; and ‘historic features’ include, but are not limited to walls, fence lines, cellars, fire pits, mill races, trenches, tent platforms, quarries, or any other manmade arrangement of materials or the trace thereof.”

Over the years our blog has tried to relate the importance of our heritage resources and some of the techniques that we use to best research these. Removing artifacts from their “context” compromises critical data we are trying to gather that allows archaeologists to determine past human behavior and land use. Come volunteer with us and learn more about our methods and our past!

Further Information:
The Antiquities Act of 1906:
Learn more about U.S.’s first national monument:
More on Virginia State Laws:
Fairfax County Park Regulations:
Further reading on federal law and regulation: King, Thomas “Cultural Resource Laws & Practice”

Discussions on Archaeological context:
Context: Where its at!
Stratigraphy- Soils and Archaeology
What is Archaeology

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CART Biweekly Update


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And the winner is…

….Megan Veness!!!

 Congratulations to CART field director Megan Veness for winning the student paper competition at this weekend’s ASV conference. Her paper discussed our recent work at 44FX0704.  Great job by her and everyone who has, does, and will help us along the way!

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Munsell – Soils & Archaeology

by Kayla MarciniszynCART Senior Field and Lab Archaeologist

As mentioned in a previous blog post by our crew chief, Jean Cascardi, archaeologists use the science of stratigraphy to determine different cultural or natural events throughout history. We have three criteria for determining new soil layers, or strata: soil color, soil texture, and inclusions. Texture is determined by feeling how fine the particles that make up the soil are and if it can be rolled into a ball or “snake.” Inclusions refer to larger particles such as brick or gravel that may also be present into the soil. Color can be pretty tricky – one layer might seem brown to one archaeologists and reddish brown to another because everyone sees color slightly differently. As with many archaeological processes there are procedures in place to ensure data is recorded in standardized ways to facilitate analysis and comparison.

In the early 19th century, Albert H. Munsell developed the Munsell color theory in order to improve color identification in the sciences, academia, and government agencies. Today, the Munsell color system is the standard system for identifying color in soils, artifacts, rocks, etc. Archaeologists use the soil-color charts, which contain Munsell color chips, to identify changes in soil color. In the field, each time a change in soil texture or color occurs, archaeologists record the color that best matches a color chip. The color chips are classified by hue, value, and chroma. Hue is the relation to red, yellow, blue, purple, and green. Value indicates the lightness of the hue and chroma indicates strength. The soils in Colchester usually range from a 7.5YR to 10YR which is a hue of yellow-red. Once you know the basic hue, you can determine the value and chroma. Our normal topsoil layer is usually written as 10YR 2/1 or 3/1 (hue value/chroma) which is a very dark grey or black.


There are Munsell options for pinkish soils, yellow soils, green soils, and even blue soils, but unfortunately, we don’t typically come across those colors in the Mid-Atlantic.

Each layer of soil represents a change in activity by either natural events or through human activity. Tracking the soil changes allows us to interpret changes in time periods, compare information from different areas across a site and follow features within the ground. Munsells aid our ability to analyze each location and artifact. We not only take into account soils recorded by archaeologists for each soil layer, but also, soil surveys done by soil scientists. Soil types in Fairfax can be checked with the county’s Digital Map Viewer. Fairfax County also provides information about soils via the 2011 Soil Map Guide.

For more information on the Munsell color system, check out their website!

Related Blog Posts
Stratigraphy – Soils & Archaeology

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