Looking It Up!

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References are incredibly important and we use a lot of them. Here is a list of some of our favorites. We may add a few in the future. The pictures in the slide show above are examples of artifacts about which we could use a reference to discover more.

Artifacts and Information





  • Musket Ball and Small Shot Identification: A Guide by Daniel M Sivilich (book)



  • First People: The Early Indians of Virginia by Keith Egloff and Deborah Woodard (book)


Virginia Department of Historic Resources:

The VDHR Home Page http://www.dhr.virginia.gov/arch_DHR/archaeo_index.htm

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It’s Snowing….Again. Lab Closed.


The lab is closed to volunteers today.

A reminder and repost: 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.

Winter and the Archaeology Lab:

The Park Authority follows Fairfax County Government closures.

  • If Fairfax County Government is closed: the office and archaeology lab will be closed & any fieldwork suspended.
  • If Fairfax County Government opens late or closes early: the office and archaeology lab will be closed & any fieldwork suspended at the announced time of day.

Additionally the lab may close under the following conditions:

  • If Fairfax County Schools open late or are closed: It is possible lab and field volunteering may begin late or be suspended. Please check with us via email when we will be open before coming to volunteer.
  • If Fairfax County Government Employees have the option of “liberal leave”: It is possible lab and field volunteering will be suspended. Please check with us via email when we will be open before coming to volunteer.

There are several websites with pertinent information

Please note Fairfax County Park Authority weather procedure.  Park facilities may still be open and classes still scheduled even when the CART lab is closed.

If you have any questions or concerns or want to check our schedule, please feel free to write us at cartarchlab@live.com  or the field crew at cart.volunteers@live.com

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CART Biweekly

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Lithic Flakes

by Brittany BlanchardCART Archaeological Technician

Creating stone tools is a reductive process called “chaîne opératoire” where a knapper, an individual skilled in lithic reduction, forms a rock into smaller, sharp tools by chipping away until the desired shape is achieved. In the field and lab, archaeologists encounter both the stone tools and the fragments of stone that have been knocked off during manufacture. Click here to learn more about lithic production. Archaeologists can interpret broken stone as either the result of cultural or natural forces. Natural fracturing of lithic materials from forces such as freezing and thawing (cryoturbation) can be separated from purposefully fractured stone on the basis of morphological attributes associated with flint knapping. High quality materials such as chert, jasper, and chalcedony retain these attributes in the lithic debitage, the rock debris from the manufacture of stone tools. A type of debitage is called a lithic flake and takes a trained eye to distinguish from other stone fragments.

A lithic flake is “a thin flat asymmetrical piece of flint or other stone which was intentionally removed from a tool or projectile core during the process of manufacture or sharpening/resharpening” (Gumbus 2019). Flakes exhibit unique characteristics that are the direct result of the processes used when making a stone tool. Archaeologists use three main attributes to classify flakes from naturally fractured stone: the striking platform, the bulb of percussion, and what is sometimes referred to as ripples or waves.

Typically flakes are relatively thin with a slight curvature and three sharp edges that feather out. The fourth edge is the striking platform. This is where blunt force was used to hit the rock and separate the flake from it. A harder rock or sturdy piece of antler could be used to achieve this.

The pressure during impact produces a Hertzian cone that forms the bulb of percussion, a swelling or “bulb” along the inner or ventral side below the striking platform. This force also produces a negative scar on the surface of the rock where the flake was removed. The last attribute, is the ripples or waves that radiate away from the point of impact on the ventral surface. The ripples are a result of the shock wave that runs through the stone when it is struck.

Studying the amount of cortex and number of negative flake scars on the outer surface of a flake can help determine how far along the knapper would have been in shaping a tool. When a rock is selected to be shaped into a tool, it can show weathering from exposure to the elements in its natural setting. The outer portion, called the cortex, can be visible on flakes removed from rocks subjected to weathering.

“The first flake removed from a piece of raw material, which will preserve cortex on its entire exterior surface, is called a cortical or primary flake . . . As further flakes are removed from the core they will show diminishing, though variable, amounts of cortex on their exterior surfaces because their exterior surfaces will be partially or completely composed of previous flake scares. These are often called secondary flakes” (Debénath and Dibble 1994).

Some rocks are retrieved from quarries or outcrops and will not have evidence of weathering on its exterior so negative flake scars can help determine at which stage of reduction the knapper removed the flake. Fewer flake scars on the external surface would indicate that the flake was removed earlier in the process while many flake scars occur as the knapper further shapes the tool.

Flakes can appear in various sizes depending on what stone resources are available and the knapper’s intentions for the tool. Partly, this occurs because different rocks fracture in different ways. Additionally, the intended size of the finished tool will result in larger or smaller flakes. If the knapper is making a large hand axe or cutting tool, then they may choose a large piece of raw material to begin with and large flakes would be removed during the process of making the tool. Alternatively, smaller tools will begin with a smaller rock that results in smaller flakes chipped away during manufacture.


Debénath, A. and Dibble, H. L. 1994   Handbook of Paleolithic Typology. Vol. I. University Museum, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Gumbus, A. 2009   Lithics-Net’s Glossary of Lithics Terminology. Web Page, http://www.lithicsnet.com/glossary.html, accessed January 16, 2019.

Koons, S. 2015   CART Lithic Analysis 101: An Introduction to Cataloging Lithic Artifacts. Video, Archaeology and Collections Branch Fairfax County Park Authority files, accessed January 16, 2019.


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CART Biweekly

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Raise a Glass to the New Year!


We hope you had a wonderful holiday! It seems fitting that at Old Colchester Park and Preserve, we have found a few fragments of the base of stemware. Pictured below, the folded base rims date to about 1680 to 1750 (MAC Lab 2018).

Fragments of the folded rim base of a stemmed glass.

Early stemmed glass examples: http://www.jefpat.org/diagnostic/TableGlass/thumbnails-TableGlassVesselForms.html

Stemware with a folded rim base example: http://www.jefpat.org/diagnostic/TableGlass/LargeWebImages/18BC33-Stemmed-SimpleBaluster.html


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

MAC Lab. 2018. Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland. Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab (MAC Lab). Originally Published 2002. Electronic. http://www.jefpat.org/diagnostic/index.htm accessed January 3, 2019

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Biweekly Update

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