All of the artifacts are in various stages of analysis, which is taking place at Stanford in the Historical Archaeology Lab. All imported British ceramics are cataloged and analyzed based on ware type, decoration, form, and completeness. Because the ceramics from the hospital midden are from a geographically confined area, ceramic vessels are refit when possible and assigned an MNV number. When refits are not possible, other quantitative and qualitative measures are used to acquire MNV counts.
*MNV or MNI is used in archaeology to indicate the minimum number of vessels or the minimum number of individuals. This contrasts with NISP or the number of individual specimens. For example, one complete pot, or all of its 10 component parts, equals an MNV of 1 and an NISP of 10. For statistical purposes, it is obviously preferable to use MNV and not NISP counts to avoid overrepresentation.
The ceramics from the hospital are interesting in that none of them come from a matched set. Planters would often order matching sets of dishes from merchants and when they were old, out of fashion, or broken, they would be given to enslaved households. Enslaved households would have been provided with ceramic wares by the plantation owner and/or manager, although enslaved individuals (particularly women) would have picked and chosen the wares and decorations that suited them. In addition, households at the plantation and island level would have traded, bartered, and sold ceramics amongst themselves.
The difference in pattern and waretype at the hospital is interesting in that it does not match previous historical and archaeological studies of ceramic provisioning at the domestic household level, nor does in conform with purchasing patterns at the plantation management level. It is unknown where these ceramics came from, perhaps they were acquired by the hospital at an individual level as they were needed, or were provided by enslaved caretakers.
One very important component of ceramic trade and manufacture on Caribbean islands is the production of locally made ceramics from local clays. These are called Afro-Cruzan wares on St. Croix, or “colono-wares” or “Afro-Caribbean wares” throughout the Caribbean. These ceramics would have been made predominately by enslaved and free-black women and would be traded and exchanged amongst different households and even across islands.
Unfortunately, Afro-Cruzan wares remain understudied and we do not yet know where and how these ceramics were made, nor the social relations behind their production and use.
Most of the ceramics from the hospital midden are bowls and cups, or so-called ‘hollowwares’ by archaeologists. In archaeology, one way of assessing diet is through the types of tableware ceramics used. Archaeological studies of plantation households have commonly utilized plate-to-bowl ratios as a proxy measure to understand how and what people ate. Ceramic assemblages from enslaved households typically have a higher proportion of hollowware vessels compared to plates or flatware vessels. White, or planter households, differ in that they commonly have a higher frequency of plates to bowls. Ceramics are used as a proxy measure for food types since certain foods are more frequently consumed from one type of ceramic container over the other. The high frequency of bowls from African and African descendent households has been used to suggest the presence of African-based cuisines, such as stews and gruels, amongst the enslaved population as an indicator of foods which were cooked and heavily processed in order to maximize the nutritional benefit of the meal. Ceramics from the hospital at Cane Garden predominately consist of hollowware vessels (86%) suggesting that enslaved patients may have relied on a liquid or semi-liquid based diet. In the past, as in today, soups and stews provide a nutritious and easily digestible foodstuff for elderly, sick, and injured individuals.
Because the sick house predates the popularity of patent medicine, it is difficult to determine the differences between medicine and alcohol bottles, since glass bottles were fairly standardized. Although differences in production and the ways in which the lips of the bottles were made are fairly diagnostic (datable to a certain time period), for the most part, dating the bottles is fairly difficult. While some bottles, like wine bottles, were made for a specific purpose, glass bottles were used over and over again for different substances, making their initial function a moot point in many cases.
Since I am interested in looking at medical practices, I had 20 mostly intact glass bottles sent to Ray VonWandruska at the University of Idaho for analysis. I was hoping Ray would be able to detect the presence of chemicals or residue on the insides of the bottles so that I could tell what kinds of substances they contained. Unfortunately, no residues were left on the glass bottles so the analysis did not move forward. Ray generously offered to do chemical analysis on the glass itself, though, and the results of this analysis is pending.
Buttons were the most common ‘small find’ from the excavations at the sick house. Most of the buttons were made of animal bone and would have been used for undergarments, sleeping garments, or ‘everyday’ clothing. We also found a couple of bone button ‘blanks’ and buttons that had been broken during manufacture and discarded. This indicates that buttons were being made at the site, instead of being purchased as a final product. This is unsurprising since at-home bone button making was common during the 17th and 18th centuries. We also found ‘fancier’ buttons in the trash deposit, including a prosser (ceramic) button, shell buttons, metal buttons, and a military style button.
In addition to buttons, we found glass beads in the hospital midden. They were either kept as single items, possibly as ‘charms’, or were part of a larger jewelry item. The beads are all made differently, some were drawn glass, tubular, or faceted.
Clay smoking pipes and smoking pipe fragments were also a common small find from both the hospital midden and the domestic quarters. Clay smoking pipes that were used at Cane Garden were made in England. Most of the pipe bowls and bowl fragments are undecorated, but a few from both the domestic quarters and hospital feature molded designs on the bowls including fluting, Coats of Arms, and vegetal designs.
Diet and cuisine are an essential component of archaeological research. Animal bones are an important indicator of economic status, diet preference, and worldviews, since all of these things affect the types of foods people ate in the past (and in the present).
At the hospital building at Cane Garden, most of the animal remains are from wild marine animals and domesticated animals such as goat and pig. Most of the bones from domesticated animals are very processed, indicated by cut and chop marks on the bones. These meats were most likely chopped and put into soups and stews, which are easily digestible and very nutritious.
In addition, most of the bones are from the feet and lower legs of the animals. These were not considered “quality” cuts of meat and would most likely have been rationed to enslaved individuals who were sick or who worked in the hospital.
There is also a very high quantity of local fish, lobster, crab, whelk, and snail, indicating that the enslaved at Cane Garden took advantage of marine resources along the coast. Fishing weights were also found in both the hospital and domestic quarters indicating that fishing was an important activity for enslaved workers at the site.