Biweekly Update 2 December


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“Air Twist” Stems

airtwistby Colleen Boyle CART Archaeological Technician

The glassware industry has existed for millennia. The first true glass objects were beads originating in Egypt or Mesopotamia. [1]  Recognizable forms of glass tablewares common today have roots in fifteenth century Venice. The invention of cristallo, a clear glass that resembles crystal, made it possible to engrave delicate designs and create extravagant glass stems. It became a major export of Venice and spread quickly throughout Europe. In 1571, the Venetian Giacomo Verzelini produced the first Italian-style cristallo in England. [2]

Between 1571 and the end of the English Civil War in the mid-seventeenth century, England issued few patents to manufacture or import glass. Glass was still being frequently imported into England until a man named George Ravenscroft created and perfected a higher quality of glassware derived from lead oxide or lead crystal. England could then rely less on foreign glass and export more products to places like the American colonies, which until this time received mostly Venetian and Flemish glassware. [3]

Individual factories produced distinctive styles of glassware, however, archaeologists rarely recover whole specimens. Luckily the sturdiest part of a glass is the most identifiable, the stem. Characteristics used to identify and date glass stems include design, form, color, and composition. This is the easiest part of glassware to manipulate without compromising the integrity of the glass itself. Before the second half of the seventeenth century, individual glassmakers can be discerned by their designs through personalized elements in their glass stems.

By 1696 the English glass industry grew and rid themselves of elusive patents and monopolies which dominated the prior century and limited glass production. There were so many factories throughout England in the early eighteenth century that individual manufacturers could no longer be completely identified through the glass stems; however, overall trends can be seen. Ravenscroft and his successors continued to create products that were reminiscent of the elaborate Venetian style of layered shapes in the stem creating ornate silhouettes. The late seventeenth century brought cleaner lines with rounded edges that resembled a mushroom, or molded pedestal stems that even had political slogans like “God Save the King” commemorating the ascension of King George I. [4]

The American colonists’ tastes in glassware changed a little more slowly than in England. The eighteenth century saw a shift in the desired style of glass stems. Heavy lead bases of the past were abandoned in favor of a more delicate balustroid form. The weight of these glasses raised concerns with the introduction of the Glass Excise Act of 1745, which raised prices of raw materials used in glass making. [5]

With a higher price on glass, but with a desire for a more ornate style, glass makers popularized the “air-twist” stem. While this design retained the popular and simple shape of the plain glass stem, it also had a more designed look. The “air-twist” is made by creating air pockets within the glass as it is heated and then drawing them out to create spiral patterns. One such Air Twist drinking glass stems was recovered at the Old Colchester Park and Preserve (see picture above). The exact year of the “air-twist” or “wormed stems” introduction is unclear but most assume it to be around 1730 and were produced until about 1760.

The evolution of tableware in the American colonies during the Seventeenth and Eighteenth century is in many ways a direct reflection of the English glassmaking industry. The presence of an “air-twist” glass stem on an American site suggests that this site could be as old as the stem’s first appearance around 1730. But this does not mean the glass was produced domestically as there was not a strong glass making industry in America until the mid-eighteenth century. Meaning much of the glassware found in early American archaeological sites were imported.

[1] Encyclopedia Britannica, Glass, Glass Making Over the Centuries. (2016).
[2] Hume, Ivor Noël. A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America, Drinking Glasses and Decanters. Pg 184-185. (1969) University of Pennsylvania Press.
[3] Hume, Ivor Noël. A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America, Drinking Glasses and Decanters. Pg 186. (1969) University of Pennsylvania Press.
[4] Hume, Ivor Noël. A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America, Drinking Glasses and Decanters. Pg 189-190. (1969) University of Pennsylvania Press.
[5] Hodge, Scott A. The Tax Policy Blog. Lessons for the U.S. from England’s Glass Excise Acts of 1745. (February 23, 2011).

Encyclopedia Britannica, Glass, Glass Making Over the Centuries. 2016.

Encyclopedia Britannica, Venetian Glass. 2016.<__URLSTART__>

Hodge, Scott A. The Tax Policy Blog. Lessons for the U.S. from England’s Glass Excise Acts of 1745. (February 23, 2011).

Hume, Ivor Noël. A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America, Drinking Glasses and Decanters. (1969) University of Pennsylvania Press.
18th Century Glass, The Wonderful World of Georgian Glass, History. (2016).

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Biweekly Update – 18 Nov 2016


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Artifact Highlight: Jackfield


by Kayla MarciniszynCART Assistant Lab Director

Jackfield is a refined red earthenware that was first developed sometime in the 1740s and reached its peak popularity in the 1750s and 1760s. Jackfield is known for its thin walls, lustrous black glaze, and unique grayish purple to purple body. The ware name is associated with the town of Jackfield in Shropshire, England, but was actually produced in Staffordshire, where most English pottery was made. Even though the popularity of Jackfield began to decline in the 1760s, alternate versions of ware continued to be produced. There was a revival of the Jackfield glaze in the late nineteenth century, but these versions are usually found on white earthenware or terra cotta (Jefferson Patterson Park 2015).

Jackfield is often found in tea or coffee service forms. Take a close look at the Jackfield sherd in the photo. The round shape and thickness of the sherd tells us it is most likely part of a spout! This particular artifact is not decorated, but decorated vessels are usually found with sprig molded designs, slip designs, or enamel or oil gilded designs.



Jefferson Patterson Park. 2015. “Jackfield-Type.” Last Modified: February 18. Accessed: November 10, 2016.

Further Reading

Noel Hume, Ivor. 1969. A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America: 123-124. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Florida Museum of Natural History. 2016. “Jackfield-Type Ware.” Accessed November 10, 2016. WARE

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New Volunteer Orientations, Holiday Schedule and Severe Weather Protocol

Archaeology New Volunteer Orientations

If you are interested in volunteering with us, please sign up for an Archaeology New Volunteer Orientation. Our next volunteer orientations are:

Thursday November 17, 2016 and
Saturday December 10, 2016

Go to{8CB92190-11B6-490A-A694-054718E5EC99}
to sign up.

Our Holiday Schedule

We will be closed during the following holidays.

  • Veteran’s Day Fri Nov 11th (lab closed Sat Nov 12, while field will be open)
  • Thanksgiving Week Wed Nov 23th Sat Nov 26th
  • Christmas Thur Dec 23rd  Mon Dec 26th
  • New Years Sat Dec 31st – Mon Jan 2nd
  • County Holiday Fri Jan 20th

The days that are available to volunteer should be in the Fairfax Volunteer Management System online calendar. To view the calendar, sign in. From your dashboard, on the left choose “Schedule” which will open a calendar. Note: You will have to use the drop down on the top left to sort by to choose the specific opportunity you wish to see. It loads slowly, but usually works.

In Case of Severe Weather

As winter approaches, 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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CART Bi-Weekly Update

4 November 2016




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“The Things They Left Behind…”

An upcoming event sponsored by Friends of Fairfax County Archaeology and Cultural Resources (FOFA).  Hope to see you there.  19 November 2016


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