Date: March 13, 2012
Place: Monocacy National Battlefield, Frederick, MD
Interview: Joy Beasley, Cultural Resources Program Manager and Kate Birmingham, Archeologist
Joy Beasley, Cultural Resources Program Manager:
What most people think about when they think of archeologists is going out in the field and digging things up and finding bones and pots and things like that. And that's certainly a big part of what goes into archeology. But probably the bigger part, and the more important part is being able to explain what those bits and pieces actually mean.
We use things like shovels and sometimes picks. We also use smaller tools like trowels or smaller digging spades.
Kate Birmingham, Archeologist:
One of the tools that we use is something called a screen. Which it's sort of like your window screen, but a little bigger. And we put the dirt in there and shake it. So what that does is it separates all the smaller dirt particles from the artifacts (handmade objects) and then you look through what remains in the screen.
Joy: This farm was actually part of a plantation (large farm or estate) that was established in 1794 by a family of French people. They had about 748 acres total and they had 90 enslaved laborers in their possession.
An eyewitness account that gave us a little bit of a clue as to the general location of where the slave quarters were, and then we really had to go out and start digging. We uncovered just a wide variety of artifacts. Everything from broken glassware and ceramics, to rusty old nails and pieces of hardware. Lots of food remains, so bones and shell.
Kate: This is a shell pendant and this is made of oyster shell, like the shell that we have here. So this would've been made, likely by one of the enslaved individuals. And they would've taken the larger shell and they would have made it into this decorative object and then inscribed all of these little lines that go down here. And the hole that they would have probably put a cord through to wear it.
This is actually an 1817 U.S. large cent, which is equivalent of what today is the penny. And you can probably tell that it's much bigger than a penny today. And that's one of the attributes (characteristics) along with the date that help us figure out when this was made.