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 shingles!) 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!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Transfer Prints on Three Pearlware Vessels

I’m Brianna Birch! I’m going into my sophomore year in college at RIT. My major is Sociology & Anthropology and I’m on an Archaeology track. I wanted to get in some field and lab work over the summer so I decided to come to Strawbery Banke. In the lab session, we worked with artifacts from the Yeaton-Walsh site. I chose to work with pearlware ceramics, more specifically transfer-printed pearlware. Most transferware is blue, but there are some other colors. I matched, labeled, and  mended several pieces. With several nearly complete vessels, I was able to identify and research the prints on a black transfer-printed plate, a purple-pink transfer-printed sugar bowl, and a set of blue transfer-printed saucer and matching cups.  These pieces are from different periods of the 19th century, and were likely used by different tenants of the Yeaton-Walsh House.

This is an 8 inch plate with black transfer print, known as “Venture.” The print has Romantic or Classical motifs, and it portrays four figures of different sizes that stand on a river bank near an urn that is on a pedestal in the right foreground. The rim of the plate is decorated with flowers, and oval cartouches lined with vines. In the center of each cartouche, there is a castle with three small rectangle towers. The maker of the piece is Ralph Hammersley (& Son), who operated from 1859-1905 in Tunstall & Burslem, Staffordshire. The maker’s mark is a large cartouche, lined with vines, with Venture written inside. Underneath the cartouche is R. H., Ralph Hammersley’s initials.

This is a white sugar bowl with a purple-pink transfer print, and it portrays a Romantic-style landscape theme. The print is a variation of a print known as “Infant Sports,” and portrays three children playing. Behind them is a church off in the distance, with domed steeples. The scene is outlined by large flowers and trees and repeats on the opposite side. The top rim is outlined in a dark purple. The maker of the original Infant Sports print is William Smith (& CO.) from 1825-1855 from Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham, so this variation is likely also from the mid-19th century. There are two marks on the bottom of this piece, one which reads “Porcelain Opaque,” and one that resembles a cross or an X.

These pieces are a from a tea set with blue transfer print called “Canova.” The print shows two figures, a man and a woman, near a large urn at the water’s edge. The man is seated playing a stringed instrument, and the woman is standing near him watching. Across the water, in the distance, there are stylized classical buildings. The rim of the saucer is decorated similarly to the cup, with the same large urn, but instead of two figures nearby there is a ship with three sails. The maker of these pieces is George Phillips, who worked in Longport, Staffordshire, from 1834 to 1847. This “Canova” print is very similar to other “Canova” prints produced by Thomas Mayer, who also worked in Longport, Staffordshire but whose business shut down in 1838. There is a secondary maker’s mark, in the shape of a flower or star, on the bottom of the saucer and cups.

Ceramics expert Louise Richardson has discussed Phillips' transfer prints in more depth for the Transferware Collectors Club -- check out her article for more information, including which prints were found at other Portsmouth archaeological sites, including Deer Street and the Warner House!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Pipe Stem Dating at Strawbery Banke

Hello everyone, my name is Cassandra Trevino and I am an archaeology student currently working on my Master's degree in Applied Archaeology. For the past two weeks I have had the pleasure of volunteering at Strawbery Banke Museum. I live in Southern California, so traveling to New Hampshire for this field school has been a wonderful experience. I personally do not have much experience with historical archaeology and lab work, so having this opportunity to work at Strawbery Banke with its rich history was amazing. Most of my experience doing archaeology on the West coast is primarily prehistoric archaeology or pre-contact, so I was extremely excited to get some experience in archaeology at a historic New England seacoast site like Strawbery Banke.
Photo by David J. Murray,
This two week session was strictly lab work during which we were able to assist in washing, sorting and cataloging artifacts from the most recent dig at the Penhallow site within Strawbery Banke. For the second part of the lab session we each picked an artifact class to focus on and research from the Yeaton-Walsh house site. The Yeaton-Walsh site was excavated in 2007 and 2015, and the house is scheduled to be rehabilitated and become an open exhibit at the Strawbery Banke Museum.

I choose to study the clay pipes that were recovered during the excavation. In the collection are fragments of pipe stems and bowls.
Illustration of the parts of a tobacco pipe (Noël Hume 1969:297)
The artifacts were already washed and cataloged, but I went through the collection to create a full list of the clay pipe pieces with the dates of the pipe stems and other dateable features such as maker's marks. In the 2015 excavations, the crew recovered and cataloged 349 pipe fragments. This assemblage included 229 pipe stems and 120 bowl fragments. J.C. Harrington created a dating technique for the recovered pipe stems. Based off of  his calculations the pipe stems holes are measured in 64ths of an inch. Throughout time the pipe stem bore diameters  decrease in size. Using drill bits and a block of wood I could easily measure the pipe stem diameters with the following date ranges:
9/64" - 1590 to 1620
8/64" - 1620 to 1650
7/64" - 1650 to 1680
6/64" - 1680 to 1720
5/64" - 1720 to 1750
4/64" - 1750 to 1800

Bar graph showing distribution of pipe stem bore diameters by count
Pie chart showing distribution of pipe stem bore diameters by percentage
Other scientists including Binford, Heighton and Deagan, and Hanson have created equations with standard deviations to create mean dates for the sites that have recovered pipe stems. The data from the Yeaton-Walsh pipe stem collection indicates that the majority of the pipe stems were discarded during the mid- to late eighteenth century, during which time the property was in use as Marden's Mast Yard.

Another way to date pipes is by looking at the stems and bowls for maker's marks. Pipe makers generally will stamp the pipe with their mark so they can get recognized for their work. They can take the form of initials or their full name. Sometimes, along with the maker's mark with the pipe maker's name, there is a mark that will also give the location of where the pipe was made.

Most of the pipes that have been recovered at the Yeaton-Walsh site were imported from Dutch and Scottish pipe makers. The decoration found on the both the pipe stems and the bowls are also a good indication of the time period and the location for the pipe. For example, most of these pipe stems have decoration that were common among Dutch pipe makers. Some of the pipe stems were also glazed so the porous clay stem would not stick to the person's lips while smoking. Below you can see some examples of pipe stems, decorated bowls, and a mended pipe that is almost complete that were found at the Yeaton-Walsh site. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

2018 Summer Lab School

The 2018 lab school crew! From left to right: Brianna, Karla, Elizabeth (museum curator), Alix, Cassie, Alex, and Emma.
Hi! We just finished the second week of the lab methods field school here at Strawbery Banke! This was the first year that we were doing a summer lab methods session, rather than a second field school session. The main goal of the lab session was to introduce students to archaeological lab work and the idea of how archaeologists can go from excavation to interpretation. During the second week, the students chose individual research projects from the artifacts recovered at Yeaton Walsh House in 2015. They researched clay pipes, glass bottles, buttons, and transfer-printed pearlware ceramics. Their research will be incorporated into the future interpretation and exhibition of Yeaton Walsh. A post about each project will be published every week for the next four weeks. Check back next week to read more!

Yeaton Walsh House (c. 1803)
As part of the lab session, we went on field trips to local historic sites and historical societies to show the students different ways of incorporating archaeology and historical research into the interpretation of and visitor experience at these sites. Some of the sites we have visited in the past two weeks include the c. 1664 Jackson House, owned by Historic New England, and Warner House, built in 1718.

Jackson House, built in 1664
The crew outside of Warner House
During the second week we visited the Old Berwick Historical Society in South Berwick, ME, to see their fantastic exhibit "Forgotten Frontier: Untold Stories of the Piscataqua" and learn more about incorporating archaeology into exhibitions. We got to speak with Dr. Tad Baker, a local archaeologist and historian, and Nina Mauer, the curator at the Historical Society, about their work at the Historical Society and beyond!

Dr. Tad Baker speaking to the lab school crew at the Old Berwick Historical Society 
The lab methods session concluded with an outdoor archaeology open house on the last day! The students presented their research to visitors and interested Strawbery Banke staff and ran some kid-friendly activities like measuring pipe stems, sorting ceramic types, and labeling M&Ms. Everyone's projects were successful!
Cassie talking to staff members about her research on clay pipes

Monday, June 25, 2018

2018 Field School Update!

The 2018 field school crew! From left to right: (back row) Alex, Alix, Emma, and Brianna; (front row) Emily, Kathryn, and Ella.
Hey! Alex here with an update on the field school and the beginning of the lab school. Three weeks ago the field school started with rain, rain, and more rain. In the first few days the field school students got a crash course in washing artifacts from previous excavations at Penhallow House. Then, the weather cleared, and we could finally start work outside! Luckily for us, it was still school field trip season, so we got to talk to a lot of school kids, mostly elementary and middle school age, and other visitors!

Emma and Emily talk to the public!

In terms of the dig itself, we started with eight units, arranged around the northeast corner of Penhallow House. Generally, we wanted to fill in some gaps in our knowledge about the Penhallow site from the past two years of digging. Penhallow is also slated for rehabilitation in the next few years, so further research on the artifacts recovered during the dig could help us interpret the house accurately in the future. Most of our artifacts, such as broken glass, ceramics, and metal, we found in a so-called brick-y layer, which was almost fifty centimeters (about one and a half feet) deep in some places! At the end of the field school, we had dug almost a meter (three feet) deep and found what may be part of the same cobblestone feature that last year's field school had also uncovered!

The field crew working!

Making maps of the unit walls