Volunteer Spotlight: Aidan Morse

Aidan Morse screening for artifacts.

by Daphne AhaltAssistant Lab Director

As we continue to work from home due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we find that we miss our volunteers more each passing week. Knowing that we currently cannot accept the help they so willingly offer – and that it is likely to be a long while before we can – we have decided to continue sharing the stories of the wonderfully talented volunteers that lend their time and efforts to the Archaeology and Collections Branch (ACB). Our volunteer in the spotlight this month is Aidan Morse.

Aidan is an Archaeological Volunteer Assistant. He has been assisting the County Archaeological Research Team (CART) since June of 2015. He has assisted staff both in the field and in the lab and has donated more than 1,180 hours of his time in just the past two years. Aidan has often volunteered two to three days a week. His work recovering and processing thousands of archaeological artifacts will aid CART in the interpretation and preservation of Fairfax County’s history.

We asked Aidan what sparked his interest in archaeology. He stated that “reading novels about archaeology in high school” fueled his curiosity. “I like that I get to be outside and search for clues to the past.” When volunteering in the field, Aidan assisted the crew with excavation and screening for artifacts.

Aidan describes the tasks in the lab that he was most often asked to do as “washing, weighing, and rebagging artifacts.” He was also tasked with adding artifact weights to the catalog. We asked what his favorite part of volunteering was, and he replied that he “most enjoyed talking to the others in the lab.” We appreciate and miss these intellectual –  and often entertaining – conversations, too! We found that we often learned as much from our knowledgeable volunteers as they did from us. He noted that he has “learned that, where I volunteer, most of the artifacts are nails.”  He never fails to make us smile. (Thanks for weighing the nails, Aidan!)

We asked Aidan what makes volunteering with FCPA rewarding for him. He replied, “It gives me a sense of purpose greater than myself.” This is the selflessness we see in all our volunteers. We greatly appreciate their time, energy, and talents and admire their dedication to CART’s mission. Thank you, Aidan.

Aidan says he does not volunteer anywhere else, which makes us even more grateful that he chooses to spend his time with us. Since that cannot happen right now – and most likely not until next year – we were curious as to what he has done to keep himself busy. Like many of us stuck in our homes, he feels that he has “struggled and failed to do so.”  We are sorry to hear this but want him to know that when it is finally time to return to the lab, we will have plenty of nails (and other artifacts) for him to weigh!

Although it may be quite some time before we see our volunteers and even longer until we have a volunteer slot available,  if you are interested in being added to a wait list to apply to our volunteer program please contact us at: cartarchlab@live.com. We will be happy to send you an invitation when orientations resume.

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CART Biweekly




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by Melissa LeeArchaeological Collections Technician


One of my favorite artifacts is a type of ceramic called Jackfield. Jackfield-type ceramics are unique in that they feature a dark red, purplish, or even a gray refined earthenware body with a lustrous black lead glaze, usually covering both the inside and outside of the vessel. These vessels could feature some decorative aspects, including molded designs and gilding, although they were also frequently left plain (MAC Lab 2012). The vessels themselves were thin walled and often were tea wares, such as tea pots, or pitchers (Hume 123). Oftentimes, these wares featured decorative molded handles and spouts (Aultman et al. 2003, 46).

Jackfield was produced with a lead-glaze. This meant that the potter added powdered lead to the ceramics glaze before firing it in the kiln. The lead provided a smooth, non-porous surface that allowed vessels to be water tight (Lakeside Pottery). Additionally, many pieces of Jackfield featured decorative elements including oil-gilding. Oil-gilding meant that an oil, commonly made from boiled linseed oil, was applied to a vessel. It was then left to dry in a dust-free environment until the oil achieved the proper tackiness. Gold leaf was then hand-applied to the tacky oil. Many beautiful designs were achieved using this (Bernacki & Associates, Inc.).

Jackfield was originally produced in England in the 1740s, although it was not popular until around 1750 (MAC Lab 2012). Jackfield was being produced in the 1740s and 1750s by Thomas Whieldon in Staffordshire, England. Whieldon’s Jackfield tended to have a redder body and a brighter black glaze. The Jackfield Pottery, a shop founded in Shropshire, England by Maurice Thursfield in 1750 also produced this ware. This ceramic type is common to early American sites that date to around the 1760s (Hume 1969, 123). Jackfield declined in production by the late 1700s, although low quality replicas continued to be made into the early 1800s. Since this time period, several replicas of this ceramic type have been made, including during the Jackfield revival period during the 1870s and 1880s.  The revival Jackfield products, however, tended to be a black glaze over a thicker terra cotta or white earthenware bodybody. This revival Jackfield is sometimes referred to as Jet Ware (MAC Lab 2012).


Aultman, Jennifer, Nick Bon-Harper, Leslie Cooper, Jillian Galle, Kate Grillo, and Karen Smith. 2003. DAACS Cataloging Manual: Ceramics. Originally published 2003, updated 2014, pg. 46. https://www.daacs.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Ceramics_1.pdf accessed July 9, 2020.

Bernacki & Associates, Inc. 2020. The Art of Gilding. Conservation and Design International. Electronic. https://www.conservation-design.com/the-art-of-gilding accessed July 15, 2020.

Hume, Ivor Noel. 1969. A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia. Originally Published 1969, pg 123.

Lakeside Pottery. Lead in Ceramic and Pottery – Consumer Issues. Electronic. http://www.lakesidepottery.com/HTML%20Text/Tips/About-lead-in-pottery-or-ceramic.htm accessed July 15, 2020.

MAC Lab. 2012. Jackfield – type. Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland. Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab (MAC Lab). Originally Published 2002. Electronic. https://apps.jefpat.maryland.gov/diagnostic/ColonialCeramics/Colonial%20Ware%20Descriptions/Jackfield-type.html accessed June 23, 2020.

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CART Biweekly

10JULY2020Fairfax County Covid-19 Updates – https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/health/novel-coronavirus

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Happy Independence Day!

For the holiday weekend, in our area, you may have found yourself putting on shoes for the first time in a long while. This shoe buckle was excavated from Old Colchester Park and Preserve and is one that may have been worn around the formation of the United States of America.

One of the sites on the park and preserve is the colonial port town of Colchester. During the American Revolutionary War, the Continental Army and the Expédition Particulière marched along a series of routes. The Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route is now 680 miles of roads designated as a National Historic Trail. A bit of this route traverses through what was once the town of Colchester. The ferry at Colchester provided a crossing point for troops over the Occoquan River.

For more on shoe buckles see https://www.colonialwilliamsburg.org/learn/living-history/buckle/

For information on the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route visit the National Park Service at https://www.nps.gov/waro/index.htm and The National Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route Association, Inc. https://w3r-us.org/

We hope you enjoyed your holiday weekend while social distancing. Stay safe!

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CART Biweekly

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While not as pervasive as quartz, CART archaeologists often find stone tools made from quartzite. Quartzite is a metamorphic rock while orthoquartzite is a sedimentary rock.

“Metamorphic rocks started out as some other type of rock, but have been substantially changed from their original igneoussedimentary, or earlier metamorphic form. Metamorphic rocks form when rocks are subjected to high heat, high pressure, hot mineral-rich fluids or, more commonly, some combination of these factors…The process of metamorphism does not melt the rocks, but instead transforms them into denser, more compact rocks.” –USGS

“Clastic sedimentary rocks are the group of rocks most people think of when they think of sedimentary rocks. Clastic sedimentary rocks are made up of pieces (clasts) of pre-existing rocks. Pieces of rock are loosened by weathering, then transported to some basin or depression where sediment is trapped. If the sediment is buried deeply, it becomes compacted and cemented, forming sedimentary rock.” –USGS

Quartzite and orthoquartzite can be found in Virginia and Maryland as well as other locations. Both type of rocks primarily consist of quartz and are formed from sandstone. Like quartz, both the color and the quality of the rock can vary. Common colors include grey, white, red, brown. (MAC Lab) While the variable quality of quartz can provide a challenge when determining if it was culturally modified, it is often easier to determine if quartzite was altered by human hands.


MAC (Maryland Archaeological Conservation) Lab. “What are Points Made From?”, last updated December, 30, 2012. https://apps.jefpat.maryland.gov/diagnostic/ProjectilePoints/AboutProjectilePoints/WhatArePointsMadeFrom.html

USGS (United States Geological Survey). “What are Metamorphic Rocks?”, accessed June 18, 2020. https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/what-are-metamorphic-rocks-0?qt-news_science_products=0#qt-news_science_products

USGS (United States Geological Survey). “What are Sedimentary Rocks?”, accessed June 18, 2020.  https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/what-are-sedimentary-rocks-0?qt-news_science_products=0#qt-news_science_products

VDHR (Virginia Department of Historic Resources). “Lithics,” 2020. https://www.dhr.virginia.gov/lithics/page/2/

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CART Biweekly

Fairfax County Covid-19 Updates – https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/health/novel-coronavirus

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Volunteer Spotlight: Steve Brooks

Steve, Archaeology and Collections Branch Volunteer Archaeological Assistant, “picking” artifacts.

by Daphne Ahalt – Assistant Lab Director

If I had to name only one thing I have missed while teleworking during the Covid-19 crisis it would be working alongside our volunteers. We have a very interesting group of people who selflessly volunteer their time and talents to our department. We miss hearing their fascinating stories and seeing their smiling faces every day. In light of this, we thought it would be nice to share the story of one of our wonderful volunteers with you, while also getting to know them a little better ourselves. Hopefully, in the future, we will get the opportunity to share more from our many amazing volunteers.

Stephen Brooks is an Archaeological Volunteer Assistant. While the Archaeology and Collections Branch (ACB) offices and labs are currently closed, Steve has been assisting the County Archaeological Research Team (CART) since he began in 2017. He regularly volunteered each day that lab or field work was open to volunteers, often three days a week. Steve mostly dedicated his time to the lab, but he also helped in the field. Steve has helped recover and process thousands of archaeological artifacts that will aid CART in the interpretation and preservation of our Fairfax’s history.

Q: What sparked your interest in archaeology? What do you like about the topic?

Steve: I can’t recall ever not having an interest in archaeology, which probably started as a youngster finding arrowheads and wondering about the people who crafted them. I felt a sense of awe holding a centuries-old artifact and being the first person in hundreds, or even thousands, of years to lay eyes on it, and an affinity for the person who created and used it so long ago as though I were treading in their footsteps.

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CART Biweekly

Fairfax County Covid-19 Updates – https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/health/novel-coronavirus


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