Cast Iron Kettle

by Samantha WoodstockArchaeological Technician

Recently we have found several parts to multiple cast iron kettles. In two areas of the site, we recovered two different lugs/handles, a leg, and parts of a kettle’s body representing at least two, possibly multiple, cast iron kettles. The lugs/handles are extremely short with narrow angles that attach to either side of the kettle. The kettles were made to sit slightly above the ground so that hot coals or a fire would be directly underneath. The kettle’s legs, which resemble an old fashioned high heel shoe, are short and thick.

Currently we do not know the process in which the kettles recovered were made; however, it is possible that  they are parts of a Darby kettle. This portion of the site dates to the Late Colonial through Early National periods which aligns with the time period in which the Darby kettles were popular. Abraham Darby invented and patented the sand casting method in the early 1700s with the Bristol Iron Company of Coalbrookdale.

Darby kettles are molded in the process of sand casting. This process uses expandable sand casts or molds where hot liquid metal is poured into these molds to harden and cool. With sand casting, these molds proved less labor intensive than earlier techniques allowing for mass production. These cast iron kettles were distributed globally.

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CART Bi-Weekly Update

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Mason Neck Eagle Festival

Please join CART at the Festival on 20 May at the Mason Neck State Park. CART along with many other organizations will have tables of information about natural and cultural elements of the area.  The Park is located on Mason Neck in Lorton, VA.

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More on Eighteenth Century Buttons

by Jean Cascardi Archaeology Crew Chief

The last time we talked about buttons on the blog we briefly discussed the three W’s of the eighteenth century button: Whose clothing were typically made with buttons, what these buttons were typically made of, and where (what pieces of clothing) buttons were worn. We learned that eighteenth century men’s clothing most commonly used button closures, buttons were made of a range of materials including bone, shell, glass, metal, or a combination of materials, and buttons occurred more frequently and at a larger number on clothing that was typically found on the outer layers.

CART archaeologists do not frequently encounter military clothing buttons, but they do occur in Fairfax County. Military clothing throughout history has and continues to use buttons for closures at a high rate. Today’s military buttons are more commonly found on Military Dress clothing then tactical clothing. As women are not recognized as playing a role in the late eighteenth United States Military, our earlier conclusions about buttons being typically worn by men remains true.

Early Continental military buttons did not infer as much information about the soldier wearing them as they did after the end of the Civil War. One military button has been recovered from the excavations at Colchester, a pewter “USA” button. This type of button was likely a one piece, molded button used on military uniforms later in the Revolutionary War. At the onset of the Revolutionary War the army consisted of militia members from colonial cities that had established uniforms unique to their group. As the war progressed, military uniforms gradually became standardized. Popular movies and television programs have made the standardized Continental Army of red, white, and blue uniform easily recognizable to many people. In general, the formal military uniforms of the eighteenth century utilized similar pieces of men’s eighteenth century clothing with added buttons for items to haul equipment.

Further Reading:

Albert, A. H., Family, H., Family, H., Family, A., Stults, J., Shuman, M. P., . . . Hutchinson, C. J. (n.d.). Alphaeus H. and Lillian Smith Albert collection.

Do It 101 Button Collecting Information Links. (n.d.). Retrieved April 06, 2017, from

Revolutionary War Uniforms. (n.d.). Retrieved April 06, 2017, from

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CART Bi-Weekly Update


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Projectile Points – Contracting Stems

by Elizabeth Paynter Archaeological Laboratory Director

Piscataway Points

A projectile point stem shape that helps identify and type projectile points is the contracting stem. A contracting stem is simply a stem that tapers (or contracts) towards the base. Contracting stems can be subtle and even somewhat squared, rounded, or pointed. There are a few projectile point types with contracting stems that can be found in our area.

One common type that we often find is the Piscataway point. See the picture above. A Piscataway has a rounded or pointed contracting stem. Weak or nonexistent shoulders separate the base from the blade. To read more about Piscataway projectile points see our blog post, “Piscataway Points”.

Another type of projectile point with a contracting stem that can be found in our region is Poplar Island. According to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, Poplar Island points date from about 2500 to 1500 BCE during the Late Archaic period. Some have suggested a wider date range beginning earlier and ending later in time. This point type is a medium to large slender projectile point that is fairly symmetrical. If shoulders are present, they are rounded. The base of the Poplar Island is sometimes long, contracts towards the base and is rounded although it can be somewhat pointed. The corners of the base are always rounded.


MAC Lab. 2012. Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland. Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab (MAAC Lab). Originally Published 2002. Electronic. accessed April 26, 2017

VDHR Collections. Native American Comparative Collections. Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Electronic. accessed April 26, 2017

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CART Bi-Weekly Update

21 April 2017





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