CART Biweekly Update

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Archaeological Features

by Jean Cascardi Archaeology Crew Chief

On this blog and in our bi-weekly updates we frequently discuss specific archaeological features that CART has discovered on sites across the county. Currently, the team is working diligently at excavating “Feature 5,” a feature that likely represents evidence of a full cellar indicating the physical remains of a structure. Unlike artifacts, features cannot be removed intact from their original location in the ground in order to analyze in the lab. Often features will contain artifacts that provide archaeologists with clues as to what their past function was and in turn infer site function and possibly even distinct activity areas within the structure. As defined by a feature is: “any physical structure or element, such as a wall, post hole, pit, or floor, that is made or altered by humans but (unlike an artifact) is not portable and cannot be removed from a site.”

Archaeologists often identify features in the field by carefully observing irregularities in soils, artifact concentrations, and rock concentration. For example, CART first identified Feature 5 as a change in soil color below the plow zone. Feature 5 soil differed from that of the surrounding subsoil generally encountered on this area of the site. In addition to the soil difference, archaeologists observed a distinct line separating the feature soil from the subsoil. The clear difference further indicated that the soil likely represented a feature. The picture below shows the separation of the subsoil from the feature soil.

The corner of the test unit pictured below revealed a redder soil than the remainder of the unit, the redder soil is the subsoil and the feature is located in the rest of the unit. The purple line in the photograph on the right highlights the separation of feature soil and subsoil.

Test Unit with Feature


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CART Bi-Weekly Update

30 June 2017

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Rhenish Stoneware

Two examples of Blue on Gray Rhenish

by Kayla  Marciniszyn Assistant Archaeological Laboratory Director

Rhenish is arguably one of the most durable salt-glazed stonewares produced in the colonial period  (1607-1776). As the name suggests, the ware was manufactured in the Rhineland region of Germany and imported into England and the American colonies (Noel Hume 1969). Rhenish’s impermeable body made it a great candidate for tankards, jugs, mugs, chamber pots, and other utilitarian wares. Naturally, the durability of the ceramic made it a popular item among households and taverns alike. Rhenish comes in two different styles: Rhenish Brown and Blue on Gray. While the term “Rhenish” encompasses both style types, each style has its own naming convention. Rhenish Brown, for example, is sometimes referred to as Bellarmine or Raeren and Blue on Gray is sometimes referred to as Westerwald.

Rhenish Brown

Rhenish Brown is similar to English Brown in that it is covered in a speckled brown slip   (appears speckled as a result of the salt glaze) and has a buff to dark gray body (MAC Lab 2015). German stoneware was first developed in the 13th century and began exporting to England in the 14th century. The popularity of Rhenish Brown in England peaked during the 17th century but began to decline toward the end of the century because of the development of English Brown stoneware. Aside from the telltale speckled brown slip, Rhenish Brown can be found with elaborate applied decorations. This can include seals, initials, armorial medallions, and even faces. The faces, commonly known as Bellarmine or “graybeard,” are probably the most common decoration on Rhenish Brown. The cartoonish and often grotesque bearded faces are meant to be a caricature of Saint Robert Bellarmine, an Italian cardinal ( 2017).

Blue on Gray

As a service ware, Blue on Gray Rhenish is more aesthetically pleasing than Rhenish Brown. The paste is usually light gray in color and much more refined than Rhenish Brown. Stylistically, it is similar to the blue and gray stoneware produced in North America. The two, however, can be easily differentiated. North American stoneware usually has a coarser paste/body and has more inclusions in the paste than Rhenish.

Blue on Gray Rhenish vs the coarser North American Stoneware

Despite the decline in Rhenish Brown, Blue on Gray was popular in North America until the 1770s (MAC Lab 2015). Like Rhenish Brown, Blue on Gray was highly decorated. Decorative techniques include applied decorations (such as the medallions or seals found on Rhenish), incising, stamping, and rouletting. The handpainted cobalt blue (how the ware gets its name) under the glaze did not appear until the 16th century. However, nothing compares to the combination of handpainted cobalt blue and manganese purple decorations. Rhenish Blue on Gray jugs are commonly found with incised concentric rings around the neck filled with manganese purple. This stylistic element is found as early as the 1630s but the combination of blue and purple on Rhenish was not common until the later part of the 17th century and continued through the first half of the 18th century (MAC Lab 2017). CART uncovered a beautiful jug neck with the manganese purple incised lines during the current excavation project.

References 2017. “bellarmine.” Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers. Accessed June 21, 2017.

MAC Lab. 2015. “Rhenish.” Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland. Accessed June 21, 2017.

Noel Hume, I. 1969. “Rhenish Stoneware.” In A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America, 276. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

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CART Bi Weekly Update

16 June 2017

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The Ball Clay Tobacco Pipe

by Haley HoffmanArchaeological Field and Lab Technician

One common type of artifact recovered by CART during excavations around the county is the clay pipe. Colonial pipes are typically made of ball clay, a kaolinitic sedimentary clay containing varying amounts of mica and quartz (Old Hickory Clay Co. 2015).

Tobacco has played a very prominent role in Virginia’s history. Before European production of tobacco, Mesoamericans and subsequent North American Indians smoked tobacco for cultural and sacred purposes (Peach State Archaeological Society 2017). Tobacco was introduced in England in the 1570s and was commonplace by the early 1700s. Tobacco farming was introduced to the mainland colonies in the early 17th century by John Rolfe (Hume 1969). To learn more about Virginia and the rise of tobacco, see Tobacco Production & the Town of Colchester.

A pipe can be divided into two main parts, the bowl and the stem. The bowl is where the tobacco is inserted and lit. The bowl can be intricately molded with designs or maker’s marks or left bare. Some pipes were formed with heel or spur underneath the bowl. Recently we found a pipe spur that had the initials “W” one one side and “I” on the other.

Broken Pipe Bowl Spur with “W”

The practice of putting initials on the heels started in the late 17th century and continued into the 19th century (Hume 1969). The stem portion can be varying lengths and includes the bore hole and mouthpiece. Pipe stems are found much more often than pipe bowls on archaeological sites. This is probably due to the fact that stems were fairly long and easily broken .

There are currently three ways to date a pipe with varying accuracy: bore width, bowl form and maker’s marks. Pipe dating by bore width was introduced by J. C. Harrington in 1954. It separates bore sizes into six time spans ranging from 1590 – 1800. The larger bores being older and the smallest being more recent. Although Harrington doubted the accuracy of his methods, they have proven fairly accurate with large sample sizes (Hume 1969). Lewis Binford later modified and improved Harrington’s method using a statistical formula (Cambridge Archaeology Field Group 2012). Dating based off of bowl form and decoration was introduced by archaeologist Adrian Oswold in 1951 (Hume 1969). His chronology gives a general idea of pipe bowl trends starting with simple bowls and becoming more elaborate over time. Exact bowl measurements are not particularly helpful when determining date because each producer had their own distinct molds. Lastly, maker’s marks, if present, can be very helpful in determining pipe dates. In addition to the maker’s mark itself, the location of it on the pipe can also suggest a date range. Marks on the bottom of the heel were common in the first half of the 17th century while marks encircling the stem occurred during the first half of the 18th century (Hume 1969). Maker’s marks on the bowl somewhat particular to pipes from Bristol, like the one found at Old Colchester Park and Preserve. To read more about the pipe pictured below, see Cool Finds from 44FX0704.

Pipe Bowl with "TD" stamped on it

Pipe Bowl with “TD” stamped on it

While pipes can be difficult to date, they are none the less a unique artifact that offers us a personal look into the past.



Cambridge Archaeology Field Group
2012 Evolution of Clay Tobacco Pipes in England.

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

Old Hickory Clay Co.
2015 Ball Clay. Electronic Document,, accessed June 8, 2017.

Peach State Archaeological Society
2017 The History of Tobacco Pipes and Their Use Among Native Americans. Electronic Document,, accessed June 8, 2017

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CART Bi-Weekly Update

2 June 2017

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