More on Eighteenth Century Buttons

by Jean Cascardi Archaeology Crew Chief

The last time we talked about buttons on the blog we briefly discussed the three W’s of the eighteenth century button: Whose clothing were typically made with buttons, what these buttons were typically made of, and where (what pieces of clothing) buttons were worn. We learned that eighteenth century men’s clothing most commonly used button closures, buttons were made of a range of materials including bone, shell, glass, metal, or a combination of materials, and buttons occurred more frequently and at a larger number on clothing that was typically found on the outer layers.

CART archaeologists do not frequently encounter military clothing buttons, but they do occur in Fairfax County. Military clothing throughout history has and continues to use buttons for closures at a high rate. Today’s military buttons are more commonly found on Military Dress clothing then tactical clothing. As women are not recognized as playing a role in the late eighteenth United States Military, our earlier conclusions about buttons being typically worn by men remains true.

Early Continental military buttons did not infer as much information about the soldier wearing them as they did after the end of the Civil War. One military button has been recovered from the excavations at Colchester, a pewter “USA” button. This type of button was likely a one piece, molded button used on military uniforms later in the Revolutionary War. At the onset of the Revolutionary War the army consisted of militia members from colonial cities that had established uniforms unique to their group. As the war progressed, military uniforms gradually became standardized. Popular movies and television programs have made the standardized Continental Army of red, white, and blue uniform easily recognizable to many people. In general, the formal military uniforms of the eighteenth century utilized similar pieces of men’s eighteenth century clothing with added buttons for items to haul equipment.

Further Reading:

Albert, A. H., Family, H., Family, H., Family, A., Stults, J., Shuman, M. P., . . . Hutchinson, C. J. (n.d.). Alphaeus H. and Lillian Smith Albert collection.

Do It 101 Button Collecting Information Links. (n.d.). Retrieved April 06, 2017, from

Revolutionary War Uniforms. (n.d.). Retrieved April 06, 2017, from

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

CART Bi-Weekly Update


Posted in Biweekly Update, CART | Leave a comment

Projectile Points – Contracting Stems

by Elizabeth Paynter Archaeological Laboratory Director

Piscataway Points

A projectile point stem shape that helps identify and type projectile points is the contracting stem. A contracting stem is simply a stem that tapers (or contracts) towards the base. Contracting stems can be subtle and even somewhat squared, rounded, or pointed. There are a few projectile point types with contracting stems that can be found in our area.

One common type that we often find is the Piscataway point. See the picture above. A Piscataway has a rounded or pointed contracting stem. Weak or nonexistent shoulders separate the base from the blade. To read more about Piscataway projectile points see our blog post, “Piscataway Points”.

Another type of projectile point with a contracting stem that can be found in our region is Poplar Island. According to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, Poplar Island points date from about 2500 to 1500 BCE during the Late Archaic period. Some have suggested a wider date range beginning earlier and ending later in time. This point type is a medium to large slender projectile point that is fairly symmetrical. If shoulders are present, they are rounded. The base of the Poplar Island is sometimes long, contracts towards the base and is rounded although it can be somewhat pointed. The corners of the base are always rounded.


MAC Lab. 2012. Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland. Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab (MAAC Lab). Originally Published 2002. Electronic. accessed April 26, 2017

VDHR Collections. Native American Comparative Collections. Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Electronic. accessed April 26, 2017

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

CART Bi-Weekly Update

21 April 2017





Posted in Biweekly Update, CART | Leave a comment

The City of Pottery Love!



Philly Slip

Staffordshire Slip


Recent excavations at a colonial site have uncovered beautiful sherds of Philadelphia Slipware or “Philly Slip” for short. Philadelphia style pottery is often attributed to Henry Piercy, a Philadelphia potter, but since this style has been found in archaeological sites as far north as Nova Scotia and as far south as Barbados, it is possible that potters were mimicking Piercy’s style rather than importing the ceramics from Philadelphia (Magid and Means 2003).

Philly slip has stylistic elements similar to English Staffordshire Slip but differ in paste and some slip colors. The American version is a coarse red or orange bodied earthenware decorated with a white clay slip. Once the clear lead glaze was applied to the vessel, the white clay slip appears as more of a yellow slip. The English version is a coarse buff-colored earthenware with a brown clay slip. Slip is a water and clay mixture and is applied using a slip cup and trailing the clay along the vessel which produces wavy or straight lines of varying thickness around the vessel. Some Philly Slip vessels may incorporate copper-oxide splotches, Sgraffito, or Moravian decorative elements. Some of the sherds we’ve uncovered during our current excavation have a crenulated or “pie crust” rim, a decorative element also seen on Staffordshire Slip.


Magid, B. H. and Means, B. K. 2003. “In the Philadelphia Style: The Pottery of Henry Piercy.” In Ceramics in America, edited by Robert Hunter, 47-86. Milwaukee, WI: Chipstone Foundation.

Further Reading (Be sure to check out the links in the post!):

Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab. 2002. “North Devon Sgraffito Earthenware” Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum. Accessed April 14, 2017.

“Meaning and Metaphor in North Carolina Moravian Slipware.” 2011. Accessed April 14, 2017.–metaphor-in-north-carolina-moravian-slipware?tmpl=component&print=1#.WPDxM8t1q70

Image | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Smithsonian Exhibit

Pieces of Fairfax County history are part of a new exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

Beads recovered at a slave dwelling within Fairfax County are on display at the Smithsonian’s Objects of Wonder exhibit.  More information about the work in Fairfax County can be found here.


Posted in Archaeology, Artifacts | Leave a comment

CART Biweekly

Macro Botanicals at Old Colchester Park and Preserve

Posted in Biweekly Update | Leave a comment