Thursday, July 4, 2019

Mending Penhallow Pearlware

Hello Everybody! My name is Kate Cota and I’m a Sociology/Anthropology major with a double minor in Classical Studies and Women’s Studies at Elmira College. I want to become a classical archaeologist. As part of the Strawbery Banke Museum Field School, I labeled and mended pieces of pearlware from the Penhallow House site (SB29), excavated in 2017. I chose this project because mending ceramics is an important part of all types of archaeology. I wanted to choose a project that would help both Strawbery Banke’s understanding of the past and my own interests in Classical Archaeology.

For the project, I went through the artifact bags for each unit and pulled out the pearlware in each, which had been catalogued by Strawbery Banke’s volunteers. Then I went through each bag of pearlware and labeled them with ink sealed with Acryloid B72 based on their site, unit, and context number. I only labeled the bags with larger artifact sherds as there were too many tiny artifacts to label in a week. After labeling, I mended using water-soluble glue any pieces that obviously went together in each unit.

After labeling, I cross-mended the pearlware from different units. For example this family was separated across units and I brought them back together. What a nice family reunion!!

I found two predominant transfer ware patterns in my artifact collection. I mended three different sections of this blue transfer ware with a vine border. The ceramic piece to the right of the photo below is actually made up of 5 fragments that perfectly fit together.

When going through the rest of the labeled fragments, I found quite a few other pieces of this pattern which did not mend with the other pieces. The predominance of this print and the presence of several different rim shapes means that there may have been multiple vessels with this pattern on it.

Another blue transfer ware was also prevalent at the site. This pattern had a castle or mansion placed on its border. I was able to mend multiple fragments of the print.

Overall, I found fragments of five of the castles. This could mean that someone living at Penhallow had a set of this transferware. It could also mean that the pattern had multiple castles itself. I have not been able to match any of my artifact patterns to a known transfer ware, so it remains unknown if this is the case.

I also found and mended many other types of decorated pearlware. Both of these borders found below are painted. This is a very popular pearlware decoration. They painted the rim either blue or green and left the rest of the dish the natural off-white color of pearlware.

I also mended two pieces of a makers mark. If you look closely, you can see that the pearlware has either W.M.C.O. or W.M.O.O. stamped onto the ceramic.

Here are some other photos of ceramics that I mended this week.

Here are some more transfer wares:

Here are some hand painted pearlware:

This is a large piece of plain pearlware:

Clay Pipe Fragments and the Colonial Tobacco Trade

Hello everyone, my name is Peter Philbin, and I just finished my first year at Bates College. I will be taking Archeology 101 this fall, and my main field of study is in the Classical and Medieval Studies department. Having had no real experience with an archaeological dig or lab, I was very excited to participate in the Strawbery Banke Field School. The dig and subsequent lab work has proven to be both exciting and informative, and I would love to do more work in archaeology in the future.

An example clay pipe, dated between 1580 - 1610

My work for the lab session was focused on the clay pipe fragments found at Sherburne House. Previous research had been done at the Yeaton-Walsh House site (SB24), where 259 pipe stems were recovered, measured and analyzed. I decided to measure as many pipe stems as possible from Sherburne House and compare the dates of use across both houses. The chief issue with collecting this data for Sherburne House was the sheer quantity. In total, I measured and date 462 pipe stems, but an unknown number remain unmeasured and undated. To try and ensure that accurate data was being recorded, I first measured 262 pipe stems and recorded the results. I then repeated this process for 200 additional pipe stems and found nearly identical trends in the respective eras for the pipe stems, leading me to believe that the data collected is representative of the total pipe stems at Sherburne House. The greater number of pipe stems at Sherburne is likely explained by the high status of the Sherburne family as well as the house’s age.

With this information, I returned to the information found at Yeaton-Walsh and compared our findings. The results revealed some broad trends in the smoking habits of Strawbery Banke residents. The bar graph below shows what percentage of the total number of pipes for each house belonged to a given era based on their stem measurement:

Here, we can see that the plurality of pipe stems at Sherburne and a slim majority of stems at Yeaton-Walsh were dated to between 1720 and 1750. This trend can likely be explained by the respective growth of the American tobacco industry. Virginia began importing a much greater number of slaves during the 1680s and 1690s, and the result was a boom in the international tobacco trade. The beginnings of the wider availability of tobacco are exhibited in the pipe stems from 1680 and 1720. Sherburne House was constructed around 1695, and thus was in use before the land where Yeaton-Walsh now stands. Yeaton-Walsh was not constructed until 1803, but the land was in use throughout the 1700s as Marden’s Mast Yard. Sherburne’s earlier founding date likely explains the 6 point difference in pipe stems from 1680 to 1720, as well as the greater number of pipe stems found at Sherburne that predate 1680 (10 in total at Sherburne, 2 at Yeaton-Walsh). The peak of the tobacco boom came during the 1730s, when using a clay pipe was a common feature of aristocratic life for the English. The drop off in totals for stems dated from 1750 to 1800 is likely the result of trade turbulence during the American Revolution and its aftermath, as well as the gradual abandonment of clay pipes as an aristocratic symbol.

I have also included some photographs of the more interesting artifacts found in the collection, including pipe bowls and stems with engravings and one pipe with the bowl and stem connected. I’d also like to thank Alix Martin and the Strawbery Banke staff for this amazing opportunity. Enjoy the findings!

Friday, June 28, 2019

Mercantilism and the Emergent Elite at Strawbery Banke

Hi everyone! My name is Lillian Page and I am currently studying cultural anthropology at Santa Clara University. I live in Rye, NH and was so excited to have the opportunity to work at a museum I have visited many times! I participated in the Strawbery Banke field and lab school in order to gain more experience to apply to my future studies.

Being a merchant in the 18th century was not only a career but a lifestyle. John and his son Joseph Sherburne were mariners and merchants who sold textiles, clothing, building materials, grains, and foodstuffs through a shop connected to the Sherburne House (Harrington 11). Artifacts found at the Sherburne site suggest that merchants were of a higher social class and used their wealth to reflect and advertise their business.

For my project, during the lab session, I sorted through artifacts from previous digs at the Sherburne house and selected examples that reflected the lifestyle of the Sherburne family. Then, I researched and interpreted how they were used in society, specifically those predominantly used by merchants and elite.

(                                                                                                                                        (Wig curler c.1720)

This is a fragment of a wig curler found at the Sherburne site. It is made from kaolin clay, a type of clay that was imported from China. At the beginning of the 18th century, it was more common for men to wear wigs than women. The styling of the wig was used as a mark of status and was associated with wealthy higher-class members of society. Curlers were heated in the fire, curled, and manipulated with dressings and oils for color and texture (White 116). Lost and stolen wigs were often advertised in newspapers because of their worth.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    (Thimble and chain, c.1730)

The chain in this photo was perhaps from a chatelaine or waist-hung appendage that was used as a purse to carry small personal items (White 129). The thimble shown could have been one of the items one would carry in a case hanging from a chain. Other personal items carried include mirrors, fans, scissors, coin purses, needle cases, and lockets.

                                                                                                                                 (Paste gems, c.1700)

The gem on the left is clear with an engraved cipher, often personalized initials. The gem on the right reflects one of the many motifs carved. Flowers, bows, and feathers were also used. Paste gems are faceted glass made from flint and lead oxide. They were highly desired by the wealthy middle class for decorations on jewelry, buckles, and clothing (White 99). Using genuine stones had a risk of being lost or stolen and became a popular alternative. Paste gems were also popular because they were easy to cut into an array of shapes and colors in comparison to stones and gems.

                                                                                                                         (Cosmetic spoon, c.1700)

This cosmetic spoon is comprised of copper alloy. It would have been used to hold ointments, powders, cosmetics, to manicure the nails, and even to scoop earwax for sewing (White 122)! Cosmetic spoons were purchased and used by wealthier men and women, as they were not a necessity.


White, Carolyn L.2005. American Artifacts of Personal Adornment 1680-1820. Oxford U.K..

Harrington, Faith. 1989. “The Emergent Elite in Early 18th Century Portsmouth Society: The Archaeology of the Joseph Sherburne Houselot.” Historical Archaeology, Volume 23.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Welcome our Summer 2019 Archaeology Interns

Hi! My name is Rick Butler and I am the new summer archaeology intern here at Strawbery Banke. I am a graduate student the University of Massachusetts Boston in the Historical Archaeology program. I am originally from Springfield, Massachusetts and did my Bachelor's degree at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. I worked in cultural resource management in Illinois for a few years primarily in the Forest Preserves of Cook County.  I have also worked on projects in New England, The Bahamas, and Scotland.  I have a strong interest in public archaeology and hope to gain a better understanding of how archaeological data can be used to inform historic interpretation for a diverse audience while here at Strawbery Banke.

Hello, I'm Callie Pray. I'm the archaeology intern this dig season at Strawbery Banke. I'm currently an archaeology and history student at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and will be graduating next summer with a Master's degree. I'm excited to return to my hometown to work in a place that took up a large part of my childhood, and to show visitors why archaeology is not only cool, but important too! I'm currently the Dig Chief of the Edinburgh University Archaeology Society, and have previously sat as the secretary and held other committee positions on the Edinburgh Archaeology Outreach Project. I believe that education and public outreach are vital components of archaeology -- our work is only important if it's shared with everyone!

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Demers Collection at the New Castle Historical Society

In the 1970s and 80s, New Hampshire divers Ray and John Demers recovered thousands of artifacts from colonial shipwrecks during diving expeditions in Hart's Cove. Many of these artifacts have recently been donated to the New Castle Historical Society, where they can now be viewed by visitors and locals and appreciated for their significant educational and historical importance.  The New Castle Historical Society worked with Dr. Emerson Baker from Salem State University to identify and display many of the artifacts donated by the Demers and in 2017, the Historical Society opened the “Piscataqua Discoveries” Exhibit at their museum. The exhibit has been well attended, but there is not enough room to display all of the artifacts donated by the Demers.

Last fall, the Strawbery Banke Collections Department staff and volunteers made the short trip over the bridge to the New Castle Historical Society to help sort and store the many artifacts in storage.  Once organized, these artifacts have the potential to be used for comparative study with other historic collections recovered by archaeologists in the Piscataqua region. 

Strawbery Banke archaeology volunteers Sally and Allen sorting a box of ceramic sherds

Labelled boxes of artifacts in storage and ready for further study

While working with the Demers Collection, Strawbery Banke volunteers noticed a number of  ceramics similar to early 18th century artifacts in the Strawbery Banke collection.  Here are just a few examples:
Staffordshire Brown Stoneware: on left, tankard fragment recovered by David Switzer's Piscataqua River Survey (A-0340);
on right, sherd recovered by Demers 
Westerwald: on left, tankard fragment recovered by David Switzer's Piscataqua River Survey (A-0346; also pictured in Switzer 2016, in The Archaeology of Vernacular Watercraft Fig. 9.2);
on right, sherd recovered by Demers
Westerwald: on left, mended tankard from Deer Street excavations (A-0514); on right, sherd recovered by Demers
Being able to study these ceramics (and in time, other types of artifacts from the Demers Collection) enriches the archaeological and historical study of the colonial Portsmouth area and enhances our understanding of British trade and import.  The Strawbery Banke Collections Department is grateful for the opportunity to work with the New Castle Historical Society on the Demers Collection!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

2019 Field School at the c. 1695 Sherburne House

John Sherburne, a mariner, purchased the plot of land where the Sherburne House now sits in 1694 from Mary Cutt Penhallow and her husband Samuel Penhallow, and built the first portion of Sherburne House c. 1695.  By nature of its age, Sherburne House may have gone through more changes, additions, and renovations than any other building at Strawbery Banke.  Here it is pictured in the mid-20th century (replete with brick-patterned asphalt siding!) before its restoration in the 1960s to its 1703 appearance.

Strawbery Banke archaeologists have worked at Sherburne House before: our aim in the first excavations in 1977 was to provide information about historic landscaping and garden design at Sherburne (Harrington and Pendery 1983). In the 1980s, archaeologists returned to the site to investigate information specific to the late 17th and early 18th century use of the landscape so that the Horticulture Department could incorporate archaeological research into their garden design (Harrington and Pendery 1983).  These excavations, and subsequent paleoethnobotanical testing, led to the current garden plan.
Sherburne (SB4) site map after excavations 1977-1985
 (previously published in Harrington 1989)

Archaeologists also recovered information about other uses of the lot over time, including two 19th century wood-lined privies, changing fence lines, and the construction of additions on the rear (north) side of Sherburne dating to 1728 and to the late 18th century.  However, a number of recommendations left by Steve Pendery and Faith Harrington in the 1980s have not yet been addressed, including further exploration of a 1728 shop addition, and possible ground-truthing of the 1697 deed, which mentioned a "well which is dugg" to the northeast (which would place it in the current backyard of the Shapley Drisco House next door).

In advance of Strawbery Banke's involvement in celebrating Portsmouth's Quadricentennial in 2023, we plan to return to the 17th century Sherburne House for this summer's excavation! For more information and a link to apply, visit:

Harrington, Faith

Harrington, Faith and Steven Pendery

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

UNH Anthropology Internship Fall 2018

Hello all! I’m Hannah, a junior year undergrad double-majoring in anthropology and German language at the University of New Hampshire. During this fall semester, I’m lucky to have the chance to participate in the collaborative internship program between the UNH Anthropology department and Strawbery Banke.

My interest in archaeology predates my time in university—but it started with an early obsession with dinosaurs and a desire to be a paleontologist. Some of my earliest memories are from about when I would have been about three years old, using a plastic shovel to dig up turkey bones that my dad and grandfather had buried in the yard for me to “excavate.”

These early memories—of having an encyclopedia of prehistoric animals propped up in the dirt, ready to compare my finds to illustrations of mysterious, long-dead creatures—got me hooked on the excitement and hands-on learning one can experience through archaeology.

Currently, I am hoping to broaden my knowledge base regarding historical archaeology and the work being done here in New England and New Hampshire. Though my interests center around biological anthropology and archaeology, I certainly have a lot to learn about the applied aspects of these areas. I’m looking forward to learning more about the local history of Portsmouth area, and hope to contribute and learn all that I can during my time at Strawbery Banke!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018


Hi all! It's Alex here! Since both the field and lab school sessions have ended, I have been working on inventorying the artifacts excavated at Sherburne House. The Sherburne House is the oldest house at Strawbery Banke, built around 1695. The excavations at Sherburne in the 1970s were among the earliest professional explorations at the museum, many of which were intended to support the interpretation and restoration of the historic houses. The research driving the Sherburne excavations focused on the design and components of the historic garden in the Sherburne back yard, but revealed elements about 17th and early 18th century land use, property division, and additions to the Sherburne lot as well. Because the quadricentennial anniversary of the first English settlement here in Portsmouth is coming up in five years, the Sherburne House is especially significant in tying Strawbery Banke back to the early history of the neighborhood.

Sherburne House in 1994, with a reproduction wharf in front

The back of Sherburne House in the 1970s
The ultimate goal of my inventory project is to make the Sherburne artifact collection more accessible for future research. These artifacts could be used for potential exhibits at Strawbery Banke, comparative analysis research with other recently excavated sites both on museum grounds or beyond, such as the Chadbourne site in Maine. This inventory project also represents a really good opportunity for digitizing many early museum archives and records!

Catalogue sheets from the 1985 field season at Sherburne

A drawer full of files to be digitized!
Since I am headed back to school for a year abroad, I hope that the next archaeology intern will be able to continue this work on Sherburne.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Researching over 200 buttons from the Yeaton-Walsh site!

Hello everyone - my name is Emma Pearce and I recently graduated from the University of New Hampshire with my BA in Anthropology. I participated in both the field school as well as the lab school this summer at Strawbery Banke and had one of the best summers of my life getting to learn all about the history of Portsmouth; not only from Strawbery Banke but other historical houses in the area as well.

For my research topic, I chose to delve into the world of buttons! Buttons are a really interesting personal adornment to research because they can tell you a lot about someone. They give us a better idea of what people may have been wearing and what their fashion sense was like compared to ours and they truly help us better understand the material culture of the time they were from. During my research, I looked at over 200 buttons from the 2015 Yeaton-Walsh dig at Strawbery Banke. I separated each button into individual bags with labels and thought it would be a good idea to put them into an Excel spreadsheet to give me a better idea of how many different types and styles of buttons I actually had in front of me.

The Yeaton-Walsh button collection is interesting for a few reasons:
1. There are so many different styles of buttons - from modern plastic to confederacy buttons from the Civil War.
2. There are original bone buttons that were made before button companies started to mass produce that specific kind of button.
3. There were a lot of military buttons found at this site which is interesting because records haven't been found of someone living in the house being in the military . Maybe they were collectors and loved buttons as much as I do!

This is a military collar button from WWII. What is interesting about this button is that the back has a cookie-cutter design. This design is very rare. So few buttons with this backing have been found that make it hard to give a specific date as to when during WWII these were made- which makes it really awesome that we have one in our collection!

These are one-hole bone buttons, made from animal bone. Bone buttons were thought to have first been made around the 12th century in France and have come a long way since then. Bone buttons are very fragile and may be easily broken when excavating in the field. These two buttons are similar at first glance but if you look close enough you can see the that the one on the left has a little bit of detail etched into the bone!

These four buttons may look like any ordinary glass button but they are not! These are called "prosser-style" buttons. They are known to be one of the most misidentified artifacts found in 19th and 20th century sites because they are actually made of ceramic and not glass. They were manufactured by the Prosser process and can be dated to any time after 1840. They are very interesting because they look like normal glass buttons, but, one side is rougher to the touch. The Yeaton-Walsh site was full of prosser-style buttons but knowing they were made after 1840 helped us with dating and clothing styles a little bit more!

Although I have researched over 200 buttons, it would take me far too long to post a picture of every single one on here; although I wish I could! Being able to research a collection as abundant and interesting as the one here at Strawbery Banke has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. My button research is far from over and I can't wait to hopefully, one day, be able to look at other button collections as well!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Historic Bottle Glass from the Yeaton-Walsh Site

Hello everyone! I’m Karla Espinoza, a current master’s student in applied archaeology at California State University, San Bernardino. I came to Strawbery Banke Museum this summer hoping to investigate more of New England’s archaeology, especially because it varies so tremendously from the West coast. During the field school lab session, I chose to research bottle glass.
Photo by David J. Murray, 
Glass can provide a great amount of information about the past. From its maker’s mark to the manner in which it was blown, archaeologists and enthusiasts are able to date, trace, and even find out the contents of what the container once held. Here at Strawbery Banke Museum, we are taking advantage of the many ways glass speaks to us, and I utilized a few of the bottles found during the excavation of the Yeaton-Walsh House that was home to the Welch family from the 1850s through 1909. During my research, I had the opportunity to construct a small timeline of bottles that date between the mid-18th century to the mid-20th century. Some of the most interesting finds were the bottles that date to the period between the mid-19th century to the beginning of the 20th century and that suggest a possible connection to the Welch family during their almost 60-year period of occupation of the house. The pictures below will begin with the earliest bottles and end with the most recent.

This is a typical square shape bottle from the mid-17th century, most commonly known as a case bottle because it was designed to be kept and shipped in cases. These case bottles often held spirits such as rum and gin.

Research suggests that this is likely a medicine/chemical vial from the 18th or early 19th century. A beautiful aqua-green, it was free blown and has a pontil scar from when it was blown. It is very tiny with a height of 1.275", a diameter of 0.875", and a cylindrical body and neck. These types of vials are more difficult to date since people tended to reuse them, especially during times of shortage.

This bottle was from medicine maker Andrew Judson White and it approximately dates to the late 1800s. Its contents were most likely derived from botanical ingredients.

A few fragments of Mrs. Winslows Soothing Syrup bottles were found on site, which date from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s. This is particularly interesting since this syrup gained infamy when it was discovered that its two main ingredients were alcohol and morphine. Despite the dangers of this over the counter remedy it was sold as late as the 1930s.

Dr. Thompson's eye water became popular in 1795 and was said to have been sold for almost 100 years until the passage of the Food and Drug Act of 1906. The main ingredients of this topical solution were zinc sulfate, alcohol, and of course opium.

This particular bottle was one of the most interesting and difficult to research since there was very little to go off of except a couple of general features. I found about five bases of this kind among the glass recovered from the dig. After a couple of hours of research, I found one of these bottles for sale online. The online example was intact and had its original label on it which read "Spongia." Spongia is made from roasted sea sponge and it was popularly used to treat a variety of ailments such a breathing issues and coughs. Its general features suggest that this bottle fragment may date to the 19th century.

One of the most interesting finds was this small vial from the mid-20th century. Although its contents are unknown, the cork and a small brush are still inside along with remnants of what was most likely a homeopathic preparation.

This unique eye-wash glass cup was only one of the few glass item found intact during the excavation. Eye-wash cups were most popular during the late 1800s and early 1900s.

This bottle base was a favorite among many of us since the little devil imprint led many of us to believe that this bottle may have once contained alcohol. We were wrong. It was Pluto Water, which was a very strong laxative water popular in the early 20th century.

Working with glass recovered from Strawbery Banke has been both rewarding and extremely informative. I have been very lucky to have been able to contribute a little piece of the puzzle to this magnificent museum. I look forward to applying what I have learned here back home in California. Thank you Strawbery Banke Museum and staff!