Thursday, August 8, 2019

Africans and Enslavement on the Piscataqua

Hey. I'm Barbara Mancini. I'm a writer, and I am an Intercultural Studies Masters student at Biola University in L.A. county. My emphasis is in Anthropology and Archaeology. The Strawbery Banke Field and Lab School has been absolutely fantastic! I have learned so much.
--at the Field School Lunch & Open House
As a descendant of numerous 17th c. European immigrants about whom I hope to write -- and some of whom held enslaved servants -- learning about the life and culture of the 17th and early 18th c. enslaved Africans here along the Piscataqua River, is extremely valuable.

The written and archaeological records of enslaved African culture has been largely hidden by the dominant European immigrant culture. Contemporary archaeology, which takes a broadened view, is helping to bring greater clarity in this dilemma.

With a bit of imagination we can paint the beginnings of a picture of an enslaved servant's life in this era by considering the objects in the artifact record which they would have handled on a daily basis.

--hand-made shell, bone, and metal buttons, and a rowel
--North Devon strainer
--Buckley tankard
--Slipware chamber pot
--Westerwald tankard
--Redware vessel manufactured at Marshall Pottery
Deduction and the written record give an idea of where the enslaved lived, and how cohesive their African cultural contacts might have been. Four books helpful to my research include "Black Portsmouth" by Mark Sammons and Valerie Cunningham, "Lives of Consequence" by Patricia Wall, "In Small Things Forgotten" by James Deetz, and "The Redeemed Captive" by John Williams.

The poster below replicates a map of Strawbery Banke and the extent of the Piscataqua where European immigrants were living in the 17th century. The upper reaches of European settlement were the places of most intense engagement with the Native American population. The list at the bottom right of the poster gives an idea of the locations where the enslaved would have been present.
--regional maps marking important places (click to see full size)
The clay pot on the poster represents a West Indian redware vessel previously excavated at the Marshall Pottery site at Strawbery Banke. Used in the 18th century as a tamarind shipping jar or sugar cane processing vessel, it is linked to the presence of enslaved Africans at the Marshall Pottery.
West Indian redware vessel (on display in the Horticulture Learning Center)
Another artifact uncovered during our field school this summer was a money cowrie (Monetaria moneta) shell -- not native to North America, and generally possessed by Africans. Perhaps it was the possession of one of the enslaved persons living in the Sherburne house, or of another African who was present on the property.
--cowrie shell (SB04.028)
Ultimately, the most profound part of the poster is the list of names creating the left border. It is all the named Africans living along the Piscataqua in the represented time period. When I turned the poster to complete the list--name over name--the metaphoric essence was clear: the names lay end to end, side to side, in the same manner they crossed the Atlantic in the holds of slaver ships; in the same way others were lain, unmarked, in the African Burial Ground.

Many thanks to all those who participated in the field and in the lab--it was a pleasure to meet you all. And my gratitude to Archaeologist Alix Martin for the amazing experience of the Strawbery Banke 2019 Field School.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

First Period Ceramics at the Sherburne House

Hello everyone -- I’m Callie Pray, an archaeology and history student at the University of Edinburgh, and one of the archaeology interns at Strawbery Banke! Despite having lived in Scotland for past 3 years studying at university, I grew up in the Seacoast area and have a long history at Strawbery Banke. I attended the 2017 field school where we dug at Penhallow, and I enjoyed it so much that I returned to intern this summer! During the lab session I’ve been going through the archaeological collection to find objects from previous excavations at Sherburne House to help reinterpret the story of the Sherburne family.
I'm ready to answer visitors' questions at the Open House! 
The Sherburne House is the oldest remaining structure at Strawbery Banke and the house has remained on the same piece of land for hundreds of years.  A rich archaeological and documentary record help the museum to tell the stories of the people who lived in this house.  By going through the ceramics in the collection, I’ll be helping the Collections Department select pieces to feature while also highlighting the wide range of vessels used by the Sherburnes at the turn of the 18th century. 

One of the most common types of artifacts archaeologists encounter in a historical excavation is ceramics. Although ceramics may break into tiny little pieces, those ceramic fragments are very resilient in the ground, thanks to the chemical changes that happen during the firing process. It’s a good thing that they’re so durable, because ceramics provide a lot of information for archaeologists!
A fragment of Combed (Staffordshire-type) Slipware -- that yellow and brown combination is unmistakable!
Ceramics are just as fashionable as they are functional, and their necessity in cooking and storage contexts means that they are frequent in the archaeological record. Trends in molds, patterns, and colors changed over time, and because of this, ceramic typologies are a reliable methods to date the occupation periods of a site. Ceramics may also inform interpretations about the social statuses of  people, and which groups they were in contact with. Certain ceramics were made in one particular region, and were moved along trade routes. 
A blue and white tin-glazed earthenware sherd fresh out of the ground -- it looks brand new! 
The ceramics recovered at the Sherburne House include a wide range, from high-end porcelains to utilitarian redwares. The Sherburne family was a prominent merchant family in Portsmouth, and they imported the finest ceramics from overseas. At the turn of the 18th century, this included combed slipwares from England, Westerwald stoneware from Germany, and Chinese porcelain from China. 

During the lab session, I selected two redware jars that had been excavated in the 1980s and were previously reconstructed and displayed in the Jones House archaeological exhibit (now closed). The jars were made in the Puddle Dock neighborhood in the early 18th century at the nearby Marshall Pottery, and may have been used by the enslaved people working and living at the Sherburne House. I spent most of the week cleaning and repairing the mends to the the jars -- hopefully they’ll be back on display in a few years! 
The finished products! 
I hope these ceramics will contribute to telling the stories of the people who once lived at the Sherburne House, and will help visitors learn about the importance of history and archaeology!

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!