Friday, November 27, 2009

The softer side of Jim

Jim's dogs

The chap you know as Dr. James G. Gibb is a complex man with a complex past. A New Yorker by birth, Jim received his academic training in the State University of New York system, beginning at Stony Brook and finishing at Binghamton. His migration to Maryland occurred after some time spent working in the desert Southwest. This period of Jim's life is shrouded in mystery, probably for good reason.

Yes, Jim Gibb is an accomplished archaeologist but he is more than that. Jim's passion is sharing the past with others. He has always been active in historical and archaeological societies and gives so many public presentations that some believe he has sent robotic clones to one side of Maryland while he himself is on the other side. Jim doesn't stop there, after all there are 24 hours in a day! Jim is known for his work with volunteers and students, offering internship and mentorship opportunities whenever he can. Everyone at PTAP, staff and volunteers alike, have learned a lot from this archaeological sensei.

These are things most of us probably already knew. However there is another side of Jim that we don't all get to see....a softer side you might say.

Jim is an accomplished guitar player...Jim is a lover of animals, especially his three current dogs...Jim is also as elusive as Bigfoot and the El Chupacabra when it comes to photographing him in his natural environment! But if you look really close at the photograph below you can just barely make out the elusive archaeologist trying to blend into the foliage.

"A wise man once said that a true scholar never grows older, he just grows wiser. Of course that wise man is now dead."

- Peter

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Turkey Day!

Today we thought it would be inappropriate to discuss any topic unrelated to Thanksgiving, which means nothing but pies, turkeys, parades, and football. As such, I present you with a brief lesson on...the turkey.

Wild turkeys are native to the forests of North America, where fossils from ancient turkey ancestors dating to the early Miocene (about 23 million years ago) have been found. The majestic modern turkey is characterized by a massive wattle and a snood--that goofy piece of skin that hangs down from the top of the beak. An interesting fact about this fine bird is that Benjamin Franklin supposedly wanted to make the Wild Turkey, not the Bald Eagle, the national bird of the United States. Of course, the turkey you will be eating today is likely a domestic turkey, but that does not mean you should not show it some of the admiration one of our forefathers did for its wild cousin! That is unless you are Jim, in which case I hope your tofurkey is delicious.

Port Tobacco, if I recall correctly, is actually home to a couple of Wild Turkeys. Perhaps you recall their loud gobbles waking you up in the morning during the Field Session?

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Three Faces of Lady Liberty: The Matron

Our foundation unit artifacts continue to produce. This is a Coronet Matron Head Cent, which was circulated between 1816 and 1839. Engraved by Robert Scot, it has the head of Liberty wearing a crown surrounded by six-pointed stars. The coin we have has the usual 13 stars, but a mistake in 1817 gave some of these coins 15. This Liberty is rather more robust than others and scholars in the 1950's commented that she “resembled the head of an obese ward boss instead of a lady”, and that it is “probably the ugliest head of Ms. Liberty ever to appear on a U.S. coin.” Most Matron coins also have the regular dentilled rim, but some 1834 coins have a beaded rim. Our coin, however, is so worn that both the date and any definition on the rim is gone. (top image)

The Matron Cent can be Brown, Red-Brown, or Red. The latter being the most rare and most expensive.

Have a great Thanksgiving Weekend!


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Oops! Slipware!

We are finishing up the report writing for the 2009 Field Session. I took several photographs of the artifacts from the Compton field to include. Represented in the photos was one of my favorite ceramics: Staffordshire Slipware. 82 pieces were excavated from the Compton field this year, 75 of those from the Aboriginal Locus alone.

A refined form of Staffordshire Slipware,called Toft-ware, was made in mid-1700's , but it is rare to find this archaeologically. In the last quarter of the 17th century, Staffordshire Slipware became a utilitarian ceramic for less affluent households and taverns.

Staffordshire Slipware is an earthenware with a buff to pink paste. The vessel is coated with white slip and brown slip. The slips are then mixed or combed to create the designs. Sometimes the second slip is applied in thin lines and dots. Finally, the vessel is coated with clear lead glaze that makes the white slip look yellow. Over time, the decorations became cruder and the lines thicker.


Monday, November 23, 2009

The moment you have all been waiting for...

As promised (multiple times...) I present to you the completed Swann House foundation drawing! After many hours of scanning, hatching, moving, rotating, and joining these walls we have a completed drawing of the foundation, which certainly will be an excellent reference now that we are far from the field (and judging by the weather, now that the foundation is soggy and possibly flooded). So, please enjoy, and click on the image for an up-close view.
We will be in the office for the rest of the week, so expect more posts about the interesting assortment of artifacts that came out of the soil in the areas around and inside the Swann House foundation.