Fast Facts About Your Finds


Need help understanding that thing-a-ma-jig you found while digging in your yard? Or maybe you'd like to be able to identify and date recognizable artifacts. Here are some general guidelines shared by BRAVO group members that might just make you an expert. 

Button Basics:


Basic clues to button identification from a button dating chart by Stanley J. Olsen entitled "Dating Early Plain Buttons By Their Form", American Antiquity, Volume 28, Number 4, April 1963. Pictorial handout.

1700-1765 - Roughcast brass or bronze button with hole drilled in shank
1700-1790 - Silver front, bone or wood back, holes for gut fastening
1760-1790 - Cast white metal, iron wire eye, mold seam and plug
1760-1785 - Cast white metal or brass, brass wire eye, burr edge, spun back
1750-1812 - Cast white metal, eye and button are one piece
1812-1830 - Two piece pressed brass button, brass eye soldered to back
1785-1800 - Brass or bronze button, brass eye, soldered, no foot to eye 
1812-1820 - Brass or bronze, restrike anvil seam, brass eye with foot soldered to back
1830-present - Two piece pressed brass button, brass eye soldered to back
1750-1830 - Center hole to index turning tool, bone
1800-1860 - Cast white metal, one piece
Post-1870 -  Pressed steel, two-piece

Clay Pipes:


Dating pipe stems:
Clay, or kaolin, pipe stems look a bit like narrow white tree branches with holes down their centers. According to an article by Maj. Robert J. Dalessandro, pipe stems were the "17th, 18th, and 19th century equivalent of the cigarette butt". Clay pipes had very long stems and as the stems became clogged, the ends would be broken off and discarded. It's not uncommon to find these discarded pipe stems, but it wasn't until excavations at Jamestown in the early 1950s that archaeologists began realizing that these discarded stems could help them date a site. J. C. Harrington, an archaeologist with the National Park Service, studied hundreds of dated pipes and realized that the stem's bore diameters directly related to certain time periods. These are the guidelines Harrington determined:
Bore         Date
9/64"    1590-1620
8/64"    1620-1650
7/64"    1650-1680
6/64"    1680-1710
5/64"    1710-1750
4/64"    1750-1800
You can determine the approximate dates of pipe stems you find like this: carefully clean the stem, removing dirt from the hole. Gently insert drill bits of the sizes mentioned above into the hole - the one that fits snugly gives you the size of the bore, which you can then match to a specific period.






All information is credited where known. The information was presented by BRAVO members at monthly meetings, which included reference handouts