Is there an biologist or archaeologist in the house?

I live on an old homestead in the Blue Ridge. The big house dates from 1868 and the cabin dates from sometime just before 1800 which is about when our valley was settled (at least the nearest town was incorporated then…there were earlier settlers, I’m certain).

So Lady Chance is digging in her garden this weekend and turns up these items..

We’re particularly impressed by link 2. Those have to be bear teeth and claws. But bears of any size are almost mythical here these days.

And the iron work! The nail and nut and bolt could date from any time but that roundwork and the iron spike are old old old.

Same for the pottery. Some of it was fired and glazed but Lady Chance, a potter by hobby, says some of them were salt-fired (without glaze, apparently).

What the heck have we unearthed here? Claws and Teeth but no other bones? Old pottery and ironware?

Note: the items were found between 10-14 inches down under a layer of soil with grass roots then a layer of red clay then some sort of soft brown earth (very easy to shovel).

Any ideas what we found and how old they would be based on depth and strata? My degree is in history and for that I took some archaeology but that was one hell of a long time ago.

Dude, those are so cool!

Let me preface this by saying that no, I’m not an archaeologist. But the items on page one kinda look like redware, the ring on 2 looks like a horse tether ring I found at my parents home (Central Texas 1851), and those on 4 resemble ironstone and maybe flow blue.

Why not take them down to your local museum for help. Regardless, I’m green with envy.

How cool! I’d love to find something like that in my yard. Do you have a university nearby that could help you identify stuff?

I’ll email this link to Rasa, who has a degree in archaeology, and therefore works in tech support.

Your best bet is to find a friendly archaeologist with a little extra time on his/her hands, who knows your region well. He or she might be able to identify them with a glance if they are commonly found in your area. For pot sherds*, the rims, bases and handles are the most diagnostic pieces. A good university library might have some reference books on artifacts of certain periods. Paging through these books might start you on the road to identifying some of them on your own. If you can do some basic historical research into the settlers in your area that might point you in a productive direction (for example, were the settlers German, Scottish, etc. in origin. ) If you can find a history of your particular house site that is the best ever.

It is quite possible, from what you describe, that your artifacts got mixed together with some fill dirt and do not necessarily have any relation to each other. For example, if someone dug a new basement and spread the extra dirt near the house, mixing together historical and pre-historical artifacts in the process. Your description of a layer of loose dirt kind of makes me think of fill dirt.

When you take artifacts out of the earth, they sometimes disintegrate suprisingly rapidly. The pottery will be alright, but I’d worry about the metal falling apart to dust (alot of times, there’s hardly any metal left in “metal artifacts” just corrosion concreted with dirt. It depends on your soil.) Handle it gently and never touch it with your bare hands if you can help it.

My qualifications (dubious though they may be) are that I have a BA in anthropoloy/archaeology from the College of William & Mary (Williamsburg, VA) and I worked in a archaeological conservation lab for a couple of years in college. I’m sure there are more qualified people on this board… these are just my half-formed thoughts.

*glass breaks into shards, pottery into sherds. This makes you sounds like an archaeology smarty-pants. :slight_smile:

I would check to see if there were any Native American tribes that lived in your locality before it was settled. Page 1 looks like it could be Native American. Page 4 looks more modern to me (early 1900’s). The teeth and claws are cool! (wanna sell ‘em?). I’d take Kalouns’ advice and check with the nearest University that has an Archaeological department.

Aww, my area of expertise is New England prehistory so you’re a bit south and a bit late for me, but lieu and your wife seem spot on, from what I know.

I’d call that pottery redware myself, the ceramic on the last page is glazed and has that ridge underneath that modern-day plates have, so is probably of more recent make. This is a good site that has a listing of many of the potters in the Blue Ridge area way back when. Might wanna take a peek there.

What you got yourself there is probably a midden. Which is a nice, archaeological way of saying “trash heap”. That’d explain the apparent lack of rhyme or reason for the things you found not relating to each other.

I feel it my archaeologistly duty to ask you to inform your state archaeologist or your State Historic Preservation Office.

Gingy, you beat me to it, but I’m struggling to breathe due to hysterical laughter.



I am too using my archaeology degree. See?

Can I hazard a guess that bear teth and claws sans other bones implies either a stuffed bear, or an old-style bear-skin rug? You know the Bugs Bunny type with head and front paws attached? Modern taxidermists use polymer resins for casting animals, but the old timers used plaster of paris or other similarly decomposable stuff. This would have long since vanished, leaving the organic bear parts, which are really only the teeth and claws in a suffed animal.

lno is mean. MEAN. He needs to marry a Canadian who will straighten him out.

RAWR. Fear me, for I am fierce, and will straighten lno out in no time flat (lno, that’s your cue for that “oui chérie” we’ve been working on.) And besides, though Rasa works Tech Support, not all of us ended up there! Some of us teach MUSIC! And train service dogs! Erm… yeah. (wait - waaaait - I teach archaeology! Even if I have to tell my students they will never make a living at it… and even if I have to tell them to stop hearing the Indiana Jones Theme in their heads every time we start a lecture)

Careers in archaeology are… interesting nowadays. Most of the digs my university and department are involved in are in the middle east. Can you say “we ain’t goin’ there no more”? In our Jordan site, we used to use goats and sheep as demining tools - send them to walk on the site, blow a few up with anti-personnel landmines, and have a quick instant dinner for our students. We can’t do that anymore, apparently.

**As for the OP’s question: ** I would run it by the profs at the local U, or people who run a conservation program in your area. Rasa may well be right - you found the trash heap! I would take those pictures again WITH A RULER. You didn’t happen to document where and how you found them, right? :wink:

If you snap those pics again, with some reference for size, I can pass them around my department and see what people come up with :slight_smile:

Happy digging,


Look again, there’s a ruler in the pix!

I have thought that it was a midden.

We started digging about a 10x10 patch for the patio and began finding items in one corner.

Obviously, come next weekend we’ll have to expand our dig in that space.

Who really needs a patio, anyway, right?

I know where you can find a number of Archaeologists this up coming weekend in Potomac. Not sure if you’d want to drive that far, but I understand it’s about 20 mintues from the MD side of White’s Ferry. I’ll most likely be there both Saturday and Sunday, though they may want you to help dig in return for helping out! :slight_smile:

Or are draftsmen!

(pretending I know what I’m talking about) Yup, redware, late 18th, early 19th century. Used to be plenty of bears around there; I’m guessing a former resident killed one and saved the teeth and claws so he could show off, maybe with a fake Indian necklace, then his wife threw it out when he was in the fields one day because it was just TOO trashy.

(innocent female voice) “Your necklace? No, I haven’t seen it. Did you look EVERYWHERE?”

And with my degree in history I’m a business exec. Does that get me in the club?

Eddie, no chance. They can come to me. That’s why they’re academics.

Jonathan I just joined the boards and am an archaeologist. I have my master’s in Experimental Archaeology and my PhD in Experimental Archaeology from Exeter. I’ve been lurking for a while, but recently joined, check my posts to the stonehenge thread. I’ll print these and get some accurate data on them, I’ll be back in a minute.
Oh I work out of Boston and have been an active Archaeologist for Big Company X for 9 years.
I’ll go link by think in a sec.

Welcome aboard, Antiquarian!

I admit to being sort of one myself, but I’m sure you have a greater depth of knowledge than myself.

Now I know my degree is old. “Experimental Archeology?”