CART Bi-Weekly Update

17 November 2017



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Pattern Molded Bottle Glass

Pattern molded glass bottle fragment with diamond design found on recent excavations in Fairfax County

by Elizabeth PaynterCART Lab Director

Pattern molding is a mix between a hand-blown glass technique and the use of a mold. Unlike when a mold was used to create a bottle form, however, the pattern mold was only used to impress the basis of the design and not shape the glass. For a pattern mold, the glass was put into a mold to achieve the basis of the pattern. Different types of molds were used such as a dip mold or a two piece mold. The decorated piece would then be free blown to its desired shape. During this process, the pattern could be altered into different designs such as a twist. One common pattern was the diamond shape. Another pattern commonly found was ribs which were often twisted or swirled as seen in the picture below. The design has a distinct almost softened look. Pattern molds found on American sites primarily date before 1850. (Lindsey 2017)

Pattern molded glass bottle fragments found on recent excavations in Fairfax County. Twisted or swirled rib design (left) and diamond design (right).

For a wonderful example of pattern molding glass from a dip mold watch the video by the Corning Museum of Glass. Go to

For a picture of a full bottle go to

References and Further Reading

Jones, Olive and Catherine Sullivan. 1989. The Parks Canada Glass Glossary for the Description of Containers, Tableware, Flat Glass and Closures. National Historic Parks and Sites Canadian Parks Service Environment Canada, Canada. Originally Published 1985

Lindsey, Bill. 2017. Historic Glass Bottle Identification & Information Website. Bureau of Land Management & the Society for Historical Archaeology. Electronic. accessed November 9, 2017

McKearin, Helen and Kenneth M. Wilson. 1978. American Bottles & Flasks and Their Ancestry. Crown Publishers, Inc., New York

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CART Biweekly Update

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Case Bottles

by Robin RameyCART Assistant Lab Director

Case bottles, also known as “case gin” or “taper gin” bottles were square or rectangular glass bottles that were popular in Europe and the New World from the 17th to 19th century. Case bottles were designed with flat sides and tapered bodies so that they could be packed into cases and crates for transport more efficiently than cylindrical bottles. As the object’s common names imply, gin and other spirits were the most common contents stored and shipped in case bottles.

The manufacture of case bottles originated in England, where four-sided glass bottles were being produced as early as the mid-17th century. Case bottles and case bottle fragments found in U.S. archaeological contexts pre-dating the 19th century were likely European imports, as the production of case bottles in the U.S. is not believed to have commenced until the early 19th century. Imported case bottles were made in a range of colors from light olive green to almost black. The fragments pictured below were likely from imported case bottles.

Two case bottle fragments. The lighter olive green is a body fragment. The darker is a base fragment. Note the base fragment's rectangular shape.

Case bottle body fragment (left) and base fragment (right) recently recovered by the CART field crew.

Until the advent of mechanized bottle production in the 20th century, case bottles were almost always manufactured in dip molds. Dip molding allowed for more expedient and uniform manufacture of glass bottles than the earlier tradition of free-blowing and shaping with simple hand tools. To form a bottle using a dip mold, molten glass attached to a blow pipe was “dipped” in through the top of a mold. Air was then blown into the pipe causing the glass to expand and conform to the shape of the dip mold, forming the body and sometimes the base of the bottle. The molded body—still attached to the blow pipe—was then removed through the top of the dip mold and the bottle’s shoulder and neck were free-blown.

The design and the manufacturing techniques employed in the production of case bottles leaves behind certain characteristics that can help in the identification and classification of case bottle glass recovered from archaeological sites. Case bottles are always square or rectangular in cross-section and taper from shoulder to base. The taper can be subtle or dramatic, but some degree of narrowing is necessary to allow the bottle to be pulled out of the dip mold after the body has been shaped. The dip molding process results in a symmetrical bottle with no mold seams, though sometimes a horizontal line may be present at the juncture of the molded body and free-blown shoulder. Dip molding prevents embossing on the body of the bottle since the embossed design would be ruined when the body was pulled from the mold. Embossing on the base of the bottle, however, is possible and has been documented on bottles recovered form archaeological contexts in the U.S. The body of case bottles often have a slightly textured appearance that results from contact with the dip mold during the manufacturing process, however the free-blown shoulder and neck will not exhibit the same texturing because they do not come in contact with the mold. The necks of case bottles are generally very short and may display a variety of bottle finishes, including flared, laid-on ring, mineral finish, oil, and blob finishes. Often, the four corners will be the only part of the bottle’s base to contact a surface when the bottle is standing upright. In these cases, the heels in between the corners will be slightly arched. This condition is referred to as a “four-point” resting point.

An olive green case bottle reproduction.

A reproduction case bottle with a flare finish. Note the short neck and the slight taper from shoulder to base. This example does not display the common “four-point” resting point.


Lindsey, Bill. Historic Glass Bottle Identification & Information Website. 2010. Society for Historical Archaeology and Bureau of Land Management. Available:

Jones & Sullivan. The Parks Canada Glass Glossary for the Description of Container, Tableware, Closures, and Flat Glass. 1989. Environment Canada. Available:

Munsey, Cecil. Gin Bottles—A Historical & Pictorial Essay. 2009. Available:

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Climate Change and Archaeology

The Lost Towns Project of Anne Arundel County, Maryland has produced a great video about the effects of climate change on archaeological sites.  Although Fairfax County is mostly situated in the Piedmont region, our coastal sites are threatened by sea level rise.  Also, as rain events become more powerful, inland sites are threatened by erosion from storm water runoff.  So, the video applies to us as well.  Fairfax County is a demonstrated leader in combating the effects of climate change, having joined the Mayors Climate Action Agenda.  To see the video, you can click here or on the image below.


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CART Bi-Weekly Update

20 October 2017

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A Few Common Archaeological Definitions

Archaeology – the study of human past through material remains.

Artifact – an object that has either been created, modified, used or affected by human beings such as projectile points, ceramics, glass, and nails.

Context – an artifact’s or feature’s physical location and position, the stratigraphic layer where it was recovered, as well as other nearby artifacts or features discovered.

Ceramic – made of clay and hardened by heat such as earthenware pots, brick, or clay tobacco pipes.


Debitage – the rock debris created when making stone tools.

Feature – an unmovable part of an archaeological site that has been created, modified, used or affected by human beings such as a road, structural foundation, midden, privy, well, or hearth.

Flake – a chip of rock removed from an objective piece by pressure or percussion when making stone tools. A type of debitage.

Historic (recorded history) – period in which a culture has its own written record.

In Situ – “in position”, when an artifact is found in its original place of deposit it is said to be found “in situ”.

Law of Superposition – law stating that with undisturbed soil deposits that the youngest layer is on the top with each layer below being slightly older and the oldest layer on the bottom.

Lithic – stone, pertaining to or consisting of stone.

Material Remains – physical evidence of human activity including changes in landscape, sites, and artifacts.

Prehistoric – period before written record.

Projectile Point- pointed object hafted onto the end of a projectile such as a spear, arrow, or dart. Colloquially called an arrowhead.


Protohistoric – period in which one culture with no writing is written about by another culture.

Provenience – horizontal and vertical location of an artifact or feature.

Stratigraphy – geological study of rock and soil layers.

Stratum – a layer of sedimentary rock or soil with consistent features which differentiate it from other layers. Often referred to by archaeologists as a “strat”.

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