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tv   American Artifacts  CSPAN  September 5, 2015 10:58am-11:31am EDT

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it's about 40 centimeters by 30 centimeters, and the majority of the cost of this piece of equipment. so, we have already warmed it up. and let me go ahead and -- turn it on. and instantly the picture should start appearing. now, what you are looking at is an x-ray through the artifact. and if you look at thesword guards on the outside, the areas in bright white are where there are still some existing metal left, but the areas that are gray, that shows there is no metal in this. that metal ends there.
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and what that tells us is that we would not be able to electrolysis is this artifact. we would have to mechanically clean it with air abrasion using the aluminum oxide powder under pressure, push through a very narrow carbide tip to blow away that surface corrosion. and it's stopping at that black magnatite. but this is a very important artifact, and one that is most likely going to end up in the museum, complete rapier hilt from a fort period building. bly: i have been working on the project since the beginning, since 1994. gosh, i hope i retire still doing it. even if we stop the project outside, they're still would be lots and lots of work to do inside.
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actually, archaeology of the future will be working with the collections that have been excavated in the past. and we make discoveries in the lab. not everything is discovered in the field. people are under the misconception that all of the discoveries are in that moment outside. it happens inside as well, and quite a lot. there is enough to keep us going for a really long time. >> this program is one of a multipart look on archaeology on jamestown island, virginia. check the american history website, history for schedule information. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] 100 four english settlers landed at jamestown island, virginia to establish a colony for the virginia company. the location served as the capital of virginia until 1699.
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thought to be lost to history forever under the james river, the original work was unearthed in 1994 by the jamestown rediscovery archaeological project. we visited jamestown to learn how the story of the 1607 settlers is being revealed every day through the study of artifacts. bly: i'm the senior curator for the jamestown rediscovery project. that is a project that started in 1984. it is a project of preservation virginia. the first statewide preservation project in the united states. it is confusing that there are so many jamestowns. so many people visit jamestown but it turns out they never went to the real place. there is a jamestown that is a living history museum, jamestown settlement. they have three wonderful ships. they reconstructed a fort and an indian village and they have a huge museum over there.
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that is a state run organization. they get state funding for that. the island itself, the original site of jamestown, is co-managed by the national park service and preservation virginia. it is an unusual, private-public partnership. the park service owns the majority of the island, 1500 acres. preservation virginia has around 23. but their acres incorporate the site of the original for, the church, the church tower, and the last government building on property. they have a lot of history condensed in that 23 acres. it is preservation virginia who are doing the archaeology that visitors will see on site today. we call our project jamestown rediscovery. we do not get federal support
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and we do not get state support for our work. we are highly reliant on donations, visitors coming because we get tourists at the gate. and grants, that's how we survive. it's hard in these times. this site is incredibly rich. it's just amazing. we have been walking over the material all these years. it has been under our feet. everyone was saying before was out on the river. it is astounding there is so much material. i have thought about why. for one thing, there was so much death in the early years and sickness. i think a lot of things got thrown away because they didn't belong to people anymore.
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possessions without a possessor. people just didn't have the strength or willpower to do much of anything. we find a lot of lead thrown away that could have been re-melted and were used. it wasn't. i think that is one reason. i think the fort itself being a protective barrier maintained a lot of trash within its perimeter. there didn't seem to be any orchestrated efforts to wheelbarrow the trash out and toss it in the river or anything. it seems to have collected inside the fort. there were periodic rebuilding efforts and then things would get dumped into old wells or holes. i think that also contributed. it's a wonderful site.
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we have ceramics from all over the world. this is really reflecting how cosmopolitan london is in the early 17th century and how connected it was to the rest of the world, to the merchants of the world. it's not representing these different countries trading directly with jamestown. some of the objects are personal possessions and a lot of our gentlemen would have access to these exotic wares from other places. even though they were coming to settle a very uninhabited and lonely place unconnected with any society really, they were bringing the best materials to eat from and drink from. we have chinese porcelain that they are bringing.
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it's really a different picture of jamestown than one would expect. it is rather wealthy in some regards. colorful. we've got professions like jewelers sitting in the fort and making jewelry. not all was death and dying and killing indians. we find a lot of their leisure time activities, lots and lots of gaming dice. chess pieces, backgammon pieces, musical instruments. it is all facets of their lives being reflected here. people visiting historic jamestown have the opportunity to come in and look up close at the artifacts. they have to sign up, it's called a curator's tour. we give them the whole orientation to what we do with
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artifacts behind closed doors. it is a unique opportunity to get an up close look. they can ask questions, they can even at times touch 400-year-old artifacts, things that john smith might have used. it's a pretty and reaching experience for visitors. we only bring 10 people through at a time, keep the group really small so that it's a better experience for everybody. once you come through the gate, you can wander the entire grounds. you can see the archaeology going on. we have a museum on site, it's called the archearian. it's full of artifacts from the excavations we've been doing since 1994. there aren't that many archaeological museums in existence. that's free of well. you can sign up for a special tour if you like with our director, dr. william kelso which is called in the trenches.
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that's a little extra and he takes you under the ropes so you get an up close and personal look from his perspective. >> how could something so precious be lost for so many years? bill: i think it was lost for the first hundred. nobody talked about it. there were travelers that came in here and there was to amend -- tremendous erosion on the west end of the island. then it became the story agreed upon. i think there was also a confederate earthwork here, a large earthen mound all over
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most of what we found. so there was no clue in the landscape that there was anything but a civil war for. a site like this, there are a rise and time changes. it was built as a bomb shelter for the confederate troops. they built this fort as a good position on the river to set up their big guns to stop the union from coming up the river. they built things where they could hunker down in case they were shelled. what you are seeing here, if you look closely, there is even some surviving would. this was built as a belowground wood room. on top, they mounted at least six feet of clay so it would
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absorb the impact of shells. this is only about a third of it. there is a hilltop beyond that black plastic and then there is a profile through another part of a room. we excavated this because it is the 150th anniversary of the civil war so it gives a perspective of the jamestown period. it is all of these different components. we have learned something about the civil war for, but we also learned -- if you come around over here -- try not to get in your way. stand right here i will be right back. so this is a great example of a
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fort on a fort. this dark area is a palisade line. it is just darker soil. there is even some darker circular impressions where the upright logs disintegrated. we traced that from the river all the way up to hear. this is a reconstruction-ish that doesn't go deep enough to expose this layer. it's a little off. we did that on purpose because we didn't want to disturb any remains. a lot of times, we will uncover these features and map them for future.
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then we will cover them back up. we know that the line was here anyway. it gives you an example of this layer. when this room was put in, it cuts through and this is gone from here to the other side. you have to look at these different discolorations and evidence and then get a time sequence by one layer cutting through and disturbing another layer. you go back in time. the latest disturbance is the latest thing and on down. don: i am one of the archaeologists on staff but i do some conservation in the lab. basically, we are out there from the beginning of april through the end of november. we are usually inside from december through march. once the season is done, you have all the artifacts we found
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through the course of the year that have to be processed. you have reports to write up. you have things to catalog. you can't always be digging. you also have to research the items you found for any report that you want to have as far as new discoveries. i spent three and a half days in the field and about a day and a half in the lab. >> what is one of the most exciting finds you have made? don: last week, i was digging. i located what you would call a petri dish. it was a glass dish about this
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large and about an inch, inch and a half deep. it was totally intact. i think we only have five or six totally intact objects from the site. it was an exciting find. i told a couple people what i had thought i had found and everybody came up and i had a large audience. everyone kept telling me not to break it. >> is that a real concern? don: when i found it, it was sitting in the post hole and i was uncovering it from the service. you could only see the rim. i thought initially it was probably a piece of copper. it was only when i dug around the side of it it had a depth to
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it and i realized it was glass. i needed to be a little bit more careful. it turned out it was a pretty cool piece. bly: you heard about the find of this little glass tray. this is really exciting. for one thing, it is complete and it is glass. how amazing is that that it's survived 400 years? it would have been clear but you can't see that because of the corrosion. i did a little research on it. although i have not found any parallels from other archaeological excavations, i do believe what we have is a 17th-century rendition of a petri dish. if you look right here, you can see one, a little glass dish being used to collect something that is being pressed in a lab where they do chemical processing.
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this is dating to the late 16th century. they were testing all kinds of materials to try to make a profit for the investors. this may have been involved with perhaps a medical group here looking for plants they could turn into medicines. to do that, you are pounding and mashing and distilling all kinds of leaves and nuts and anything you can get your hands on. they could easily make samples into little dishes like this. we would call this a petri dish today, but julius petri is a 19th-century german scientist so it's a little before his time. on the table here, you can see a lot of native pottery. i am in the process of trying to mend those together. native pottery is a bit more difficult than with other wares
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because the colors don't change too much. this is a typical native pattern. it's called simple stamping. it is a leather-wrapped paddle they are hitting it with. this is the base of a pot. everything gets numbered. all the little pieces get numbered with the area of the fort where they were found. that's one of the processes we do in the lab. we keep track of those numbers because if one feature should mend to another across the site, that is an important thing to note. if things from the well mend with things from the ditch, that means both of those features were open at the same time. that's called cross mending.
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merry: welcome to the laboratory of the jamestown rediscovery archaeological project. the artifacts come in from the field and are sorted here until we can process them. in our wet laboratory. come on in. this is where we process artifacts as they come in from the field. we use basic tools from our local hardware store. colanders and washing tubs and a variety of brushes including toothbrushes, fingernail brushes, and vegetable brushes. and we use dissecting needles for cleaning out the holes. a typical artifact tray looks like this.
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it includes material from one layer and one feature on the site. these are some of the typical artifacts that we find archaeologically. we find coal, a lot of clinkers from the iron making process. lots of iron that comes in heavily corroded. very difficult to identify. all different kinds of ceramics, including clay pipes that were made in england and europe and also locally. a variety of ceramics from all over the world, including earthen wares.
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this jar is probably from england or the netherlands. we find bricks, architectural bricks. a little bit of copper. this copper was brought in to trade with the indians. we find tons of scrap copper from our archaeological features here because they brought so much with them. this is all scrap, all waste from the early 1600s. here we have a little bone knife handle that is from a little paring knife. this is the kind of little knife you would see in a dutch still life on the side of the plate.
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you will also find a lot of bones. i don't have an example here. i don't know why. we find lots of animal bones here at jamestown as well. the artifacts are placed in these racks. this is a bone from a sturgeon. they were prolific in the 17th century. when they spawned, they were about nine or 10 years old or older. at that age, they provided about 600 pounds of meat because they were about nine or 10 feet long. we also find quite a bit of limestone from bermuda that was used in the ships from bermuda as ballast.
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it was used architecturally once it arrived at the island. and oyster shell is another commonly found material at jamestown. they ate these oysters and subsequently used them to produce lyme for mortar and plaster. let's go on into our processing laboratory, our dry processing laboratory. here, i am sorting artifacts from the john smith well. these few ceramic shards are from one of the upper layers of the well. john smith in 1608 ordered the
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colonists to dig a well and in 1610, it was filled in as the colonists left jamestown. they had hoped to go back to england but they were met by a longboat in the chesapeake bay and ordered to turn around. the longboat belonged to lord delaware and announced his arrival. all the colonists came back and reoccupied james for. these ceramics were made in the period from about 1619 until about 1625. they were made by james ward. his kiln site was found here in
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the 1950's on the national park service property. these are some of his products. i am trying to do minimum object count. i count all the fragments by isolating rooms and bases that belong together. i can tell from looking at these different vessels that are represented in this layer from the well it's layered d. we have a jug here with a nice spread foot turned up on the edge. very well made, a little drinking cup here.
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very thin. the fabric is identifiable because it is chalky and buff colored. it is james river clay. you can see there is a variety in the colors of the glazes. that is just dependent upon the kiln conditions. a typical day here at jamestown consists of sorting and identifying objects and entering them into our database which is jamestown rediscovery which was developed for us specifically here at jamestown. to date, we have catalogued over a million and a half artifacts. we probably have about that many to go. >> if a scholar is working on
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this material, what do they do? what is their process? bly: it's a case-by-case basis. it is usually happening at the graduate or postgraduate level. they would contact us and give us their research plan and what they intend to do. we are in the middle of a full-scale excavation. the main priority is caring for the artifacts as they come in, keeping track of them, getting them catalogued. we can't do everything, we can't just open the doors and let everybody in because we are in the middle of all this work. it's possible but it's not that frequent at this point because we are still processing the material. that's an interesting piece. a pistol. who knows where it is from. it is from somewhere on the preservation virginia property.
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it was kept in the national park service collections because we didn't have a collections area before our project got started. it looks like it has been through a fire. i believe it is early 19th century. it still has a flint in the jaw. i wish i knew exactly where on the island it was found. it could have been turned in in the early 20th century. the national park service maintains their own collections from jamestown. before 2007, 1 of the legacies we decided to leak rather than another monument on the landscape was to join the collections to some extent.
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a new facility was built adjoining our building, we made sort of a campus. while the collections are kept separately, they are in one spot. someone coming to see a particular material type for research, it's more convenient and easy for them. they can go to both collections to do their work. hopefully, we will survive into the future. we have organized the materials and we have built the structures to be permanent archives. i would hope that 400 years in the future there is a jamestown collection that is capable of being studied and examined by scholars of the future. i look back 400 years and think, how many collections have survived? i do worry about that. there are things like the --
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there are things that have. we have to be really good stewards now and train up the next generation of stewards to take care of this stuff. merry: side-by-side, these would go into a case and that's where the name comes from. they are a type of drinking bowl used in the early 17th century up until about 1650. when you get into the 19th century, you will find a machine produced quite different from the handmade. if you have a bigger piece, you can tell what the shape of a wine bottle was.
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>> this program is one of a multipart look at archaeology on jamestown island, virginia. check the american history tv website for schedule information. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> coming up next, a research services librarian at the society of cincinnati talks about the experiences of the french army during the american revolution. she draws evidence from two narratives. the american revolution institute of the society of then society of the cincinnati hopeful this event is about 25 minutes. >> hello everyone,


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