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Piscataway Points

By Elizabeth PaynterLab Director

One common point type found in our region is the Piscataway Point. This type of point can be found from Virginia to New Jersey. Projectile points types are defined by certain physical characteristics.Anataomy of Piscataway.jpg

The base is the most important area of a point. This is the hafting area (aka hafting element) where a point or blade was attached to a handle or shaft on items such as darts, spears, arrows, and knives. Without the base of a point it is difficult to impossible to determine what the point type is, and, therefore almost impossible to determine the date when the tool was made. See “Let’s Get to the Point about Typologies”. As you can see from the picture, the base of a Piscataway is rounded or pointed, small and contracts. Weak almost nonexistent shoulders separate the base from the blade.

Piscataway points are similar to, but smaller and narrower than the Rossville point. Overall Piscataway points are somewhat small with a total length of approximately 29 to 49 mm and a width of 10 to 21 mm. The blade is usually long, narrow and triangular in shape. The blade edges are most often straight or slightly convex and occasionally beveled. The cross section of the blade is lenticular and thick.

Piscataway Points.jpg

Piscataway points in our area are often of quartz or quartzite although the points have been found made of a variety of other stone.

There is some debate on the time period in which this type of point can be found. The Virginia Department of Historic Resources has stated the dates for the Piscataway Point as 1000 to 500 BCE during the Early Woodland. CART currently uses this date range for the point; however, there is evidence that the point has been found in the earlier Late Archaic contexts.

Note: As always, if you find this point or any artifact on park or government land, it is illegal to move or disturb it. Instead note the exact location and contact your local archaeologists through the county or the state department of historic resources. If you are on private land and have permission to collect, remember that disturbing any site can result in the loss of important information about the past. Recording as much detailed information with minimal disturbance about the location of artifacts and their relation to each other in physical space both horizontally and vertically is a part of combatting this loss.


MAC Lab. 2012. Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland. Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab (MAAC Lab). Originally Published 2002. Electronic. accessed September 14, 2016

VDHR Collections. Native American Comparative Collections. Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Electronic. accessed September 14, 2016


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Gunston Hall Archaeology Day

Please join us next weekend for Archaeology Day at Gunston Hall.  See you there.


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Virginia Indian Festival

CART will have a table with artifacts and other information at the Festival.  Hope to see you there!!



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English Brown Stoneware

by Jean Cascardi: Archaeological Crew Chief

It has been some time since any CART archaeologists have been to Colchester to excavate. If you have been following our blog and weekly updates, you know that most of the winter saw the field crew holed up in the lab to lend a hand with the many indoor tasks that come with the processes of excavation. Since spring, the crew has been working on different compliance projects around the county; looking to the future, the team will be heading back to Colchester to continue excavations around the park. With our return on the horizon I thought I would discuss an interesting artifact CART found excavating on the Enyedi Property in 2014.


The artifact pictured above is a sherd of English Brown stoneware, with a very special detail. If you look closely at the image on the left you will see a round stamp below the rim.

According to the Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum Diagnostic Artifacts (JeffPat) webpage English Brown stoneware was patented by John Dwight in 1672. English Brown stoneware can be buff-bodied (like the piece found at Colchester pictured above) with brown slip and salt-glaze. On chronology, in Colonial America and the United States JeffPat suggests that this ceramic type most commonly occurs on sites dating from and around 1690-1775.



The stamp displays the initials “WR.”

Ceramics marked with the “WR” stamp, an excise (or tax) stamp representing William III, were of standardized volumes and are commonly found on archaeological sites associated with ordinaries or taverns. This sherd of English Brown stoneware was recovered from feature context, the in-fill of a dry lain stone foundation on the Enyedi property (shown below).


During the American Colonial period the local governing body attempted to closely control the sale of food and alcohol in establishments such as taverns and ordinaries. One way this was done was through the use of standardized measures- for example, the volume of liquid sold in vessels such as tankards. Based on the circumference of the rim, the artifact pictured above is probably a tankard sherd. In addition to standardized volumes, tavern and ordinary establishments were required by law to post prices for the goods and services offered by the keeper. These two regulations are only glossing over the vast amount of legislation in place regulating these establishments.

There is historical evidence of multiple ordinaries operating in the town of Colchester, as these establishments had to be licensed yearly. Today we know of one location where a tavern operated in Colchester. This is the privately held residence that is still standing today known as the Fairfax Arms (shown below with a 1980s addition to the right).


The Fairfax Arms is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a tavern.

Taverns and ordinaries on the Colonial landscape were common place. Often they are associated with the Colonial travel, along roads and near ferries; but are more often associated as fulfilling a social purpose for the towns in which they were located. In truth they served both these functions, as well as an economic function. Taverns and ordinaries were a place where an out-of-towner could find a meal, a drink, and a bed. Speaking specifically of the Fairfax Arms (a.k.a. the Essex House), one traveler recorded:

“I dined at the Essex House, a commodious tavern or ordinary near the ferry, build partly of stone and partly of wood, the great outside chimneys of stone having capacious fireplaces. The dinner was of smoking venison and fish taken from wood and water that morning, and supplemented with tempting cakes of maize and a pitcher of excellent cider. The rate was one shilling and sixpence which I did not demur at for so good a repast” (Sprouse 1975:63)

Locals used taverns as places to catch up on the news or even local gossip; for both locals and non-locals alike discussed business such as the going market prices for a variety of crops. Taverns and ordinaries were also places where ideas spread. During the lead up to Revolution, in particular, taverns served as places were locations of debate and during the war militia often mustered at taverns. As a tobacco port town with a functioning ferry all of Colchester’s taverns served the full range of economic and social functions.

CART has not yet had the opportunity to examine any known tavern or ordinary sites on the Old Colchester Park and Preserve. However, we plan to return to the Enyedi Property and expand excavations in the vicinity of the dry lain stone foundation. With luck, we will determine the function of the structure associated with this find. The Enyedi Property would have been “officially” outside the boundary of the 1754 Town of Colchester according to the map. Though CART archaeologists do suspect a strong and close relationship between the residents of this structure and the town of Colchester.


Several Colonial period taverns have been excavated in our region. These investigations provide researchers with a wealth of information pertaining to the daily lives of different people who frequented these establishments. What other types of artifacts would you expect to find on a tavern site? Do you think that these types of artifacts would vary regionally? Would they vary from town to town? Would these artifacts change based on location; such as port town, city, or rural neighborhoods?


Further Readings and References:

Archeological Society of Maryland. (2015). Out of the Ordinary: Tavern Archeology in Maryland. Maryland State Highway Administration. Retrieved from

Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland. (2016). Retrieved 27 August 2016, from

Ensign Edward M. Riley. (1943). The Ordinaries of Colonial Yorktown. The William and Mary Quarterly, 23(1), 8-26. doi:1. Retrieved from doi:1

Rockman, D., & Rothschild, N. (1984). City Tavern, Country Tavern: An Analysis of Four Colonial Sites. Historical Archaeology, 18(2), 112-121. Retrieved from

Sprouse, Edith Moore. (1975). Colchester: Colonial Port on the Potomac. Fairfax County Office of Comprehensive Planning in cooperation with the Fairfax County History Commission. Fairfax, Virginia.

Struzinski, Steven. (2002). The Tavern in Colonial America. The Gettysburg Historical Journal, Volume 1, Article 7. Retrieved from

Watson, A. (1968). ORDINARIES IN COLONIAL EASTERN NORTH CAROLINA. The North Carolina Historical Review, 45(1), 67-83. Retrieved from




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