Finding Buckles

Buckle recovered during recent excavations of a late eighteenth – early nineteenth century site in Fairfax County.

Buckle recovered during recent excavations of a late eighteenth – early nineteenth century site in Fairfax County.

by Samantha WoodstockCART Archaeological Technician

Buckles have been used for multiple different purposes throughout centuries. There are numerous types of buckles: knee, belt, shoe, girdle, boot/garter, spur, etc. A buckle  is made of two parts, the frame (or ring) and the chape. The chape itself has three parts, the pin, roll and tongue. The pin is placed on the backside of the frame where it is drilled into holes of the frame. The roll and tongue pivot on the pin but, they face opposing ways. Not every buckle has all five parts and use of the buckle is dependent on the size and shape of the parts of the buckles.

Buckles started to become a fashion statement in France during the reign of Louis XIV in the late 1600s. This fashionable icon came to the American colonies in the early 1700s. These particular buckles were lavish pieces that were gilded and jeweled to present wealth and power. Girdle buckles were lavish women’s buckles popular around 1740. The girdle was the leather belt that fastened a gown with a decorative piece in the front. Men had stock buckles were used to fasten a neckcloth with a lavish piece in front.

Horse saddles and harnesses also used buckles. These buckles are usually brass or iron with a single or double frame. These buckles are a simpler size and shape for more practical purposes. They are used to secure the harness to the horse through a leather and/or textile strap. They are also used in securing the rider to the horse through a saddle belt that is attached to the harness.

The pictures above are also of buckles excavated from sites that date from the eighteenth to nineteenth century.


Button Country. 2012. Div IV-Buckles & Claps. Electronic.

Hume, Audrey Noel. 1971. Wetherburn’s Tavern Archaeological Report, Block 9 Building 00 Lost 20 & 21. Electronic.

Hume, Ivor Noel. 1969. Artifacts of Colonial America. Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press. Electronic.

White, Carolyn L. 2009. Knee, Garter, Girdle, Hat, Stock, and Spur Buckles from Seven Sites in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Springer. Electronic.

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Biweekly Update – 13 January 2017

13jan2017Click here for details on the Archaeology New Volunteer Orientation

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Factory-Made Slipwares


by Elizabeth PaynterArchaeological Laboratory Director

Factory-made slipwares are ceramics that were brightly decorated with a color slip. A slip is a liquid mixture of clay, water, and other materials such as pigment. Slip was used to increase the smoothness of a ceramic, to make it more water resistant or for decoration. In this case, the slip was used for a variety of decorative purposes.

To understand the ware, it is important to note that archaeologists, collectors and potters refer to it in a variety of ways. Factory made slipware is sometimes referred to as either dipt’ or dipped ware, mocha, bandedware, or annularware. The multitude of ways that the slipware is referred causes some confusion. To compound the confusion, terms such as “annular” or “banded” can mean something else entirely. The CARTeam refers to this type of slipware as bandedware. Bandedwares “were the cheapest hollowware with color decoration available to consumers from the 1780’s through the nineteenth century;” (MAC Lab 2002) therefore, they are often found on late eighteenth century to nineteenth century sites.

These factory-made ceramic vessels were originally mass-produced in Britain. France and North America also began to produce them. The vessels are predominantly hollowwares such as mugs, bowls and jugs. Most often, bandedware is found on refined white earthenwares and yellowwares. It is occasionally found on other earthenwares and still rarer on redwares. Bandedware displays a wide variety of decorations and colors. The slip style, decorations and colors are fairly unique and can become easy to identify making it an extremely useful ware for an archaeologist to find.


MAC Lab. 2002. Dipped Earthenwares. Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab (MAC Lab). Electronic. accessed January 5, 2017

Sussman, Lynne. 1997. Mocha, Banded, Cat’s Eye, and Other Factory-made Slipware. Council for Northeast Historical Archaeology, Boston, MA


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Biweekly Update

30dec2016Click here for details on the Archaeology New Volunteer Orientation

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The Electric Streetcar

Cupric streetcar token from United RY and Elec Co. Baltimore. Says "Good for One Fare" on one side.

Cupric Streetcar Token

by Kayla MarciniszynCART Assistant Lab Director

The evolution of transportation throughout the years is always a fascinating topic, especially when it is evident in the archaeological record. Electric streetcars became a popular method of public transportation, primarily in urban areas, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Baltimore, New York, and San Francisco are among the more prominent cities to adopt a railway system during that period. Most companies stamped their tokens with the company name or logo, making them diagnostic if found in the archaeological record.

This cupric token was recovered by CART during a recent project. It is stamped with “United RY and Elec Co. Baltimore,” telling us the token belonged to the United Railways and Electric Company of Baltimore, Maryland. Baltimore had a number of competing railways, so in an effort to merge the companies together the United Railways and Electric Company was formed in 1899 (Davis 2005). The use of railways peaked between 1900 and 1929, eventually declining during the Great Depression. The company was reorganized in 1935, becoming the Baltimore Transit Company, which included both streetcars and buses. As cheaper transportation and cars became more available, fewer people used Baltimore’s streetcar system. Baltimore’s last streetcar ceased its service in 1963 (Davis 2005).


Davis, Sarah. 2005. “Baltimore Streetcar Transportation.” Maryland State Archives. Accessed December 21, 2016.

Further Reading:

Helton, Gary. 2008. Baltimore’s Streetcars and Buses. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing.

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Bi-Weekly Update 16 Dec 2016


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Severe Weather Protocol

freeze.JPGIn Case of Severe Weather

With freezing rain on the immediate horizon, we want to remind you to stay warm and safe. (This is a repeat of part of a previous post).

Even our indoor temperatures can be unpredictable. If you are in the lab, please wear warm layers. You may want your coat, hats, scarves just in case. If you will be joining our field crew, please wear clothing appropriate for the weather and contact them at for additional suggestions about outdoor gear.

The Archaeology Team prefers everyone live long full happy lives, so in any weather event, please stay off the roads if there is any question of safety regardless of the following protocol.

Fairfax County’s  new weather procedure applies to us. As a general rule:

  • If Fairfax County Government or Schools are closed: the archaeology lab will be closed & any fieldwork suspended.
  • If Fairfax County Government or Schools open late: the archaeology lab will either open late or be closed & field work most likely suspended. Please check with us via email when we will open before coming to volunteer.
  • If Fairfax County Government or Schools close early: the lab will close & fieldwork will be suspended at the announced time of day. Please email before coming to volunteer.
  • If Fairfax County Government Employees have the option of “liberal leave”: Please wait until you are contacted by us before leaving your home. We will let you know if we are able to make it to the lab or field. We will contact you either by email or by posting notice on this website as soon as we are able.

There are several websites with pertinent information

If you have any questions or concerns or want to check our schedule, please feel free to write us at  or the field crew at

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