Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

During the last week of the Fellowship I had an appointment to visit Kelly Ladd, curator at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s archaeological collections. This was exciting because I had already been to Williamsburg during the first week of my trip and I was so pleased that Eric Klingelhofer suggested that I return to the town and see another collection.

To quote the Foundation’s website “(the Foundation)….conducts original research on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century colonial archaeology and material culture,…..The Department also oversees the largest colonial-period archaeological collection in the United States, consisting of several million objects and fragments recovered during more than 60 years of excavation; extensive comparative historic-period faunal and archaeobotanical collections; and the Martin’s Hundred collection of early seventeenth-century material culture” It is the last sentence about Martin’s Hundred collection that is particularly relevant to the North Devon pottery finds.

Martin’s Hundred was one of the earliest 17th century plantations, located along the James River and was settled in 1619 by the English. Richard Carter bought the land in the early 1700s and built on this earlier site.

Kelly had pulled a lot of finds for me when I arrived and they were split into 2 categories – 18th century plainware and first quarter 17th century sgrafitto ware. The former, pottery sherds were excavated in Williamsburg itself and the latter were found at Carter Grove, Martin’s Hundred. We talked a lot about the plainware sherds and the colouring of them – I pointed out that it seemed unusual for the North Devon plainware to have grey in it, Kelly said it was a result of the oxidation that occurs during firing (due to the position of the vessel in the kiln and the firing temperature), which gives the red clay a striking grey ‘core’ running through the middle like a liquorice allsort.

The 17th century sgrafitto ware from Martin’s Hundred was beautiful and amazing to be able to hold something that old that came from North Devon – the finds were of the signature yellow colour glaze with both floral and wavy patterns. Interestingly Kelly also identified what the Foundation believes to be local copies of North Devon slipware in amongst the collection, some of which were more of an orange colour glaze.
Fascinating to think that in the 1600's, North Devon slipware was being copied and they liked the sgrafitto so much to create their own version.

Further reference can be made to the Martin’s Hundred site in a book of the same title written by eminent British archaeologist Ivor Noel Hume, which is a fascinating account of how he and his team excavated the site and their archaeological practices.

Photographs were taken by Dave Green and reproduced By permission of Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Archaeological Collections.