Wednesday, October 24, 2007
A New Discovery at Port Tobacco
(scale in inches: 0.9 x o.6 x 0.4)
This past weekend we uncovered something new to our site at Port Tobacco...an English Gunflint! While gunflints are common on archaeological sites dating to the 18th Century, this is a first for us.
Gunflints themselves can not be dated accurately but we can make a few deductions from the size, shape and color of the gunflint to identify where it is from and an estimated time of use. Gunflints come from beds of chalk, the English ones coming from the Suffok area where the industry started in the 17th Century and is still in use today (Noel Hume 1969).
The gunflints are made by striking the flint itself on several sides to get the desired slopes. There are various sizes and ways of doing this. Some are struck directly from the piece of flint as was done in the 17th Century and others during mass production in the 18th Century were struck from prepared blades of flint to get more uniformity and quantity of gunflints. Before the 17th Century gunflints were struck from chert, a similar stone to the flint but not derived from chalk (Noel Hume 1969).
These early types of "flint" are known as gunspalls and were imported into the Colonies and also locally produced (Miller and Keeler 1986). The piece found at Port Tobacco was a gunflint and not a gunspall. This can be seen in that it was not poorly struck and most likely was a manufactured piece from England. The shape and color--a black gray--and tiny fossilized sponge spicules and radiolaria (invertabrates) indicates to us that it is, in fact, English made.
Since Port Tobacco did have it's own militia and was involved in the Revolutionary War and War of 1812, it is not surprising to find gunflint but it sure is exciting! Since I have no experience with gunflints I had some reading to do last night and this morning on the subject and thanks to Jim, I had all the material I needed at my disposal.