Thursday, January 20, 2005


Archaeologists to start piecing Lewes's past together


Cape Gazette
By Henry J. Evans Jr.
January 16, 2005

State archaeologists are preparing to move to the next phase of work with artifacts found on Lewes Beach: lab work, research and detailed analysis on hundreds of pottery shards and various other items.

Archaeologists and about a dozen volunteers have worked through the week’s good weather and bad to see if there were areas of the beach that contained heavier deposits of artifacts than others.

The results have been mixed, with much of what’s been found being more of the same - pieces of pottery, fragments of storage containers, bricks and fragments of other materials.

This week, however, a few more metallic items were also uncovered. A pewter spoon, a small, metallic, flat, highly-detailed image of a ship, still bearing fragments of blue and red paint; a stamp used for sealing wax and a candle holder.

Conservators and state archaeologists will examine the artifacts to figure out where the materials originated, where they were going and how they ended up beneath the waters of the Delaware Bay.

“We’ll be washing and labeling some of the artifacts and then do some basic analysis, sorting, and figuring out some of the dates,” said state archaeologist Craig Lukezic. He said volunteers would do some of that work just as they’ve done much of the recovery work.

State archaeologist Chuck Fithian said a conservator with extensive knowledge about the metallic artifacts will give them a better idea of what they have.

“The fun part now, I think, is going to be the lab work. It’s in the lab where you make the additional discoveries and get the new insight into what’s going on by looking at the artifact collection,” Fithian said.

As more artifacts have been found, theories of their origin have changed. One of the recent theories is that what are now artifacts might once have been merchant goods aboard a shallop, a small sailing vessel that moved goods between coastal seaports.

“There are a number of research pieces that Chuck has found in newspapers of the time, ads and other things, of that kind of shallop mercantile activity going on,” Lukezic said.

Lukezic said there are 17th century maps of the Lewes coast containing dotted lines labeled as shallop routes. Lukezic said so far, not a single sunken shallop has ever been discovered in the Delaware Bay.

Lukezic said underwater archaeological survey methods using metal detectors or sonar don’t necessarily find vessels like a shallop. Those survey methods find larger vessels with large metallic objects such as cannons, he said. “We know a lot of shallops wrecked and they’re all over the place but our methods just don’t pick them up because there’s not much iron in them.”

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