Dendrochronology at Patriot Park North

Hand Hewn Log showing its rings

Hand Hewn Log from the Rigg-Buckley House at Patriot Park North

by Elizabeth S PaynterCART Lab Director

Fairfax County Park Authority artiFACTS tells the story of some of the archaeological finds from Fairfax County as well as some items from FCPA Museum Collections. Recently, the Rigg-Buckley House from Patriot Park North was highlighted.

CART prepared and sent samples of the wood from the Rigg-Buckley House to a dendrochronologist. Dendrochronology is a method of dating that can pinpoint the exact year a tree died or was cut. It is also referred to as tree-ring dating. The cross-section of a tree displays its rings which have a predictable pattern of growth. The width of each ring is dependent upon climatic conditions such as drought which produces a narrow ring or wet seasons which produce a wide ring. The combination of the width of each ring can be compared to samples with known dates.

To read more about the Rigg-Buckley House and the results of the dendrochronology, see the recent artiFACTS post, “More than Meets the Eye: the Rigg-Buckley House

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CART Biweekly

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Rockingham Ware

Mottled brown glaze on fragments of a stoneware vessel that has a Rockingham glaze.

Rockingham glaze on a yellow bodied stoneware.

by Elizabeth S. PaynterCART Lab Director

Rockingham ceramics were popular from c. 1830 to c. 1900. It was produced in Britain as well as in North America. It is identifiable mainly by its streaking brown glaze in which the yellowish or buff body of the vessel is often visible. The Rockingham glaze style was used on yellow earthenwares (yellowwares), stonewares and infrequently on white bodied earthenwares. The paste of these wares can be buff to yellow. Some Rockingham wares are uniform in color, but the brown glaze is often mottled or swirled. The color can be a light tan to a rich brown. Rockingham wares are known for their often molded relief decoration which could be very elaborate.

During recent excavations at Mount Air, the County Archaeological Research Team recovered some small fragments of what is likely Rockingham on an earthenware.

Possible Rockingham glaze on earthenware fragments recovered from excavations at Mount Air.

For further reading:

Bagley, Joe. (n.d). City of Boston Archaeology Ceramic ID Grid. City of Boston Archaeology. Electronic. Modified version can be found  accessed August 2, 2019

DAACS. 2018. DAACS Cataloging Manual: Ceramics. pp. 61. DAACS. Electronic. accessed August 2, 2019

MAC Lab. 2012. Rockingham Ware. Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland. Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab (MAC Lab). Originally Published 2002. Electronic. accessed August 2, 2019

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CART Biweekly

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Mending Artifacts

Mended stoneware jug recovered from Patriot Park North.

by Daphne AhaltCART Assistant Lab Director
and Elizabeth S. Paynter – CART Lab Director

As mentioned in previous posts, mending artifacts back together is a little like doing a jig-saw puzzle with different puzzles’ pieces jumbled together, no picture, and missing pieces. When fragments of the same vessel are found in the same exact location, it is slightly easier. However, when they are found spread across an area, it is necessary to become a bit of a detective to locate all of the pieces of a ceramic item that might mend. Mending the pieces together will give us a better idea of the ceramic’s shape. Being able to properly identify the kind of vessel and all of its attributes as a whole allows us further analysis into the site. See Part II of “Vessels vs Sherds: Cross Mending and Why Does It Matter Anyway” for more information on analysis.

The likely slave quarters site recently excavated at Patriot Park North yielded some large fragments that different volunteers and staff noted might mend. As always, it is important to maintain information on the provenience of each fragment or artifact. Each artifact must be labeled before mending can begin. Luckily volunteers previously labeled artifacts recovered from Patriot Park North. Our volunteer Denise is now faced with the task of hunting down potential mends and cross-mends in order to see if we can put any vessels back together. In order to do this, the CART lab turned to the FCPA artifact database and queried for similar qualities such as overall type, paste and glaze color as well as any noted possible mends. Denise pulled artifacts from the boxes in which they were located and compared them. While many pieces were discovered with mends, it was clear that occasionally a different cataloger identified a color slightly differently or that the color of the paste or glaze changed depending on the location on the vessel. The lab staff went back to the drawing board. A new query was created in the database that could account for these variables. Denise, the volunteer detective, then went hunting again.

Once the pieces were found that mended, Denise dry-fit the fragments she collected ensuring the pieces locked together in a true mend. Then, she used an archival or low tack tape to hold the non-glued fragments together. Once Denise knew which fragments mended, she recorded the provenience of each fragment and which ones mended. She numbered each fragment with temporary labels before gluing with archival Acryloid (Paraloid) B-72 adhesive. She started with the largest piece and added smaller pieces a few at a time. She let them dry overnight and then added more fragments repeating the process until the vessel was complete. Thank you, Denise, for being our detective and artisan!

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Slave Dwelling Project Comes to the Area!

Be sure to mark your calendars.  Joseph McGill of the Slave Dwelling Project will be coming to Prince George’s County, Maryland for a series of events on September 6 and 7, 2019.  On September 6, Mr. McGill will participate in a fireside conversation and sleep over at the Mount Calvert Historical and Archaeological Park.  The next day will be a public archaeology event at the Mount Calvert Slave Quarters Site.  Finally, in the evening of September 7, the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission will host a panel discussion.  The purpose of all these events is to raise awareness of the enslaved in the historical and archaeological record and how this history is interpreted for the public.  Hope to see you all there!

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CART Biweekly Update

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