Thursday, July 23, 2009

Small Finds

What is a glass sphere, a little over a half inch in diameter, has a hole running clear through from one pole to the next, and is black. If you guessed a bead, you are correct. (Don't be wasn't that difficult.)

This is one of a number of small interesting finds recovered from Port Tobacco this spring. As cataloguing progresses, we will highlight others.

The bead came from one of the two excavation units in the south part of the Compton field, units we dug in search of the James Swann House. (It turns out that we probably found the Swann House site on the west side of the hedgerow, about 30 ft from where Pete and his team were digging in the woods.) We had also uncovered a posthole and mold in one of those two units in Compton field...something certainly was afoot there in the Colonial Period.

Dennis Curry opined at the time that this artifact is a trade bead; viz., a bead of European manufacture (typically made in Italy or the Netherlands) traded to East Coast Indians for animal pelts, maize, meat, and sundry other items. If it is a trade bead, it is the third so far recovered from Port Tobacco and another indication that colonists and Indians interacted on site.

Reminder: Scott will run another lab this Saturday, 9 AM to 3 PM, at the Port Tobacco Courthouse, and Pete will run one at Crownsville on Monday, 9 AM to 3 PM.



Anonymous said...

If you will refer to pages 6 & 7 of William J. Graham's study on the Indians of Port Tobacco River you will find that there was a glass trading bead factory in Jamestown in 1622 and that some of those beads may have been traded by the English to the Indians of the Potomac. Could this be one of them?

Jim said...

Good point. The glass factory at Jamestown was short-lived (I can't remember how long, but it was a few months to a few years) and it is unlikely that it produced many beads. Certainly imported trade beads throughout the 17th and early 18th centuries far outweighed the Jamestown settlers "Tryall of Glasse." I think it was Jean Harrington who published a small booklet on the Jamestown glass making copy doesn't seem to be readily at hand.