Fort Daniel news, artifacts

Submitted by Gwinnett Archaeological Research Society

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Figure 1. English leaded crystal from Fort Daniel.

GARS continues its study of the Fort Daniel site (9GW623) in Gwinnett County, having completed the first phase of investigations on November 9 after 16 weekends in the field. Results of the investigations to date were presented at the Fall SGA meeting. A PowerPoint presentation in PDF format is available on the GARS website at www.thegars.org (see also The Profile No. 135 Fall 2007 pp.6-8).

Several “partners” have helped in these investigations including the Gwinnett County GIS Department. Our collaboration with them was featured in a poster for the National Geography Day event November 14 held at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. GARS is also collaborating with the Gwinnett Historical Society and others in an effort to save the site from destruction by means of purchasing the tract.

GARS Historian Shannon Coffey continues to work on artifact cleaning, cataloguing and—her special area of interest— analysis of ceramics and glass. In addition to wonderful examples of (early) hand-painted polychrome pearlware (a bowl and accompanying pieces, probably teacups, dating to 1795- 1820), possibly English-made banded annular ware (a mug dating to 1785-1840), and brown transfer ware featuring an Asian pastoral scene dating ca. 1810, we have also recently recovered several sherds of imported English wheel-etched leaded crystal (Figure 1). The sherds suggest a tumbler, perhaps monogrammed, that is tentatively dated to about 1760.

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Figure 2. Nail from Fort Daniel in relation to published type illustration.

We have jokingly concluded that the area this glass came from must have been the officer’s quarters. In any case, the presence of fine table ware, including a complete, bone-handled table knife with incised decoration (mid 1700s), suggests that life on the Georgia frontier was not without its amenities. TRC lab director, Tommy Garrow, has been helping with the cleaning and stabilization of metal artifacts including a great number of nails and nail fragments. One surprise was the presence of machine cut nails on the frontier. Could they point to a later structure on this site?

Machine cut nails in the industrialized north begin to appear after 1790, and they gradually replaced the far more expensive hand wrought nails, which by 1815 were pretty much relegated to the specialty market. While the majority of nails so far recovered at Fort Daniel are hand-wrought, as would be expected for an 1813 fort that replaced 1790s fort, there are also a large number of machine-cut, hand-headed nails exhibiting very distinct diagnostic attributes. According to Edwards and Wells’ Historic Louisiana Nails: A Guide to Dating of Old Buildings, the Fort Daniel machine nails would be a “Type 3d,” manufactured by a short-lived process that can be narrowly dated to 1805-1810, though the authors suggest that they might have been around to about 1815 (Figure 2). The period of manufacture and use of this particular nail fits well with the date of the construction of Fort Daniel, so we believe that these nails, as well as the hand-wrought nails, are credibly associated with Fort Daniel.

A technical report with contributions by several GARS members will hopefully be completed before the spring. Except for completing excavation of features, so far only partially excavated, no new excavations will be carried out at Fort Daniel until this report is completed. Hopefully, if preservation efforts are not successful, additional work can be carried out before the property is sold and developed.