Before we jump into discussing the artifacts, please remember that artifacts are irreplaceable pieces of our history and cannot be replaced if picked up and moved from their original location. When artifacts are collected outside of an archaeological setting, it's like taking puzzles pieces away from a puzzle and no longer being able to see that part of the picture. This means that part of our story goes missing from the historical record. If you think you find something, leave it in place and use our handy-dandy Artifact Identifier to help you report it to your local authorities. It's everyone's job to take care of our heritage!
A little bit of a disclaimer for all archaeological projects: **When new information comes to light, narratives and interpretations may be altered to reflect the data that we have. Another important note is that unless you find a specific object or historical records that directly link a person(s) to a site, you cannot in full confidence say that it is connected to the person in question.**
Now that we've gotten some of those housekeeping items addressed, we'll look at some of the artifacts that were recorded at the Buffington archaeological site in Pueblo County, Colorado. Then, we'll discuss some preliminary conclusions and theories about this site 🙂. Remember, we're doing this purely for fun! Hopefully by the end of this short blog you'll understand a bit more about archaeology and why it's so dope!
Alright, let's talk about the Buffington archaeological site. What did we find!? LOTS OF GLASS and ceramics! All types of different pieces! Before we get into that... here's some basics on how glass is made.
Sand is one of the basic ingredients when making glass. Most sand contains iron impurities in varying types and quantities. These impurities give the glass a green, blue-green, blue, or yellow tint, depending on the percentage of iron in the glass. Historically, the most common method used to produce colorless glass was to add complementary colors, often using the purple hue created by manganese dioxide (Lockhart 2006).
For example, the artifacts pictured below were once colorless or clear. But, when manganese dioxide in the glass is exposed to sunlight, it turns purple over time. The darker the color, the more manganese dioxide is present in the glass. These sun-colored amethyst artifacts are epic to find at an archaeological site because the color of the glass directly pinpoints a period of time in history. Most of the time this color of glass was used in medicine bottle and liquor flasks.
Let's look at each one of these sets of artifacts below to see what you can learn about the people that left them behind. We'll describe all of the artifacts first and then briefly talk about what they may have been used for and how we may be able to date them.
Photo left: Amethyst glass shards with a small “B” and large “F” embossed on them.
Photo middle: Amethyst medicine bottle. No markings on the bottle except a small circle embossed where the neck meets the shoulder of the bottle.
Photo right: Amethyst shard with embossed/geometric design.
Amethyst glass dates from ca. 1870s-1930s.
Photo left: Aqua glass rectangular base with “B 64” embossed on the exterior.
Photo right: Interior view of the rectangular base.
Aqua glass can range in color from a light bluish green to a dark bluish green and is most commonly used for medicine, food and condiments, soda water, and soda. Aqua glass dates from ca. 1800-1920.
Photo left: Key from a key-wind top strip, either sardines or a coffee tin. Cans opened by using a "key" to tear or roll away a metal strip from the top or side of the can. This method of can opening is still used today on some canned meats and fish. Length measures 5/8". Post 1917.
Photo right: Head/rim of shotgun shell. "M. C. Co." / "12" / "Club" engraved on the head, which stands for "Union Metallic Cartridge Company," ca. 1896-1910.
Photo left: Earthenware white glazed sherd with an "E."
Photo middle: Earthenware sherd with maker’s mark, "Royal Stone China Wedgwood & Co."
Photo right: Earthenware sherd, "Royal Stone China Wedgwood & CO."
Maker's marks like the one you see here on this piece of glazed earthenware were very commonly found on the bases of vessels. Makers marks point to a specific range of time and often help us date archaeological sites. This maker's mark dates from ca. 1860-1890. Do you think these pieces all connect?
Photo left: Boyd’s Genuine Porcelain Lined Cap fragment, embossed “BOYD’S GEN...”
Photo right: Fragment of Boyd’s Genuine Porcelain lined cap. The fragment from photo left connects to this one.
These glass liners were used in the lids of mason jars to help prevent food from coming in direct contact with the metal lid, which caused a metallic taste in the food and increased the risk of contamination from bacteria. This cap fragment could date to as early as 1871.
This is just a small sample of all the artifacts we recorded at the Buffington archaeological site. Over 40 artifacts that had some sort of identifying marks were documented with their locations recorded. However, hundreds of artifacts were tallied throughout the site with over 300 pieces of aqua and Amythest glass, 200+ pieces of ceramics, 200+ pieces of scrap metal and a scattering of various household items like buttons, animal husbandry equipment, nails, and fencing.
Obviously, we aren't going to discuss everything we found but looking at the artifacts above, we can draw some basic conclusions about how and when this archeological site was probably used. Most of the artifacts date from the late 1800s to the early 1900s and are directly related to household functions, like the Royal Stone China Wedgwood & CO sherd.
Another detail to note when looking at artifacts is the quality of the item. Did you notice in the first set of Amythest artifacts, the last picture shows a beautifully embossed geometric design on the exterior of the glass fragment? We found many pieces of Amythest glass with embossed designs like this one. This type of decorative design points to a household with a higher socio-economic status that can afford decorative pieces beyond what is needed for everyday use.
Looking at details like these, archaeologists can then start to piece together a story about the people who used these items and how they may have lived a long time ago. What other details did you see that could tell us more about the people at this site? Share in the comments below!
Mystery artifact! What do you think this artifact is!? It is described as a porcelain round cylinder with "UKO Model A" painted on it. It measures 1/2" diameter x 7/8" long. Have a guess? Let us know in the comments!
If you want to learn more about the Buffington archaeological site and the Donkey Kong Project, join us on June 23rd from 9 am to 3 pm for "Digging into History: A Hands-On Archaeology Event" in Pueblo County, Colorado. This a FREE event for kids and adults of all ages. Check out the flyer(s) here!
We're excited to continue serving our community through archaeology into the 2023 season and beyond. We'll be posting updates to our blog so make sure you subscribe!
We've got more fun things to share with you in 2 weeks!
See you soon!
Jasmine & Jess (J&J) 🌳
➡️ In our next blog we'll talk about our FREE archaeology programs and Archaeology Day in Fairplay, Colorado this summer!