Park Authority

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Fairfax, Virginia 22035
Jai Cole
Executive Director

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More Than Just a Pretty Face

More Than Just a Pretty Face

When a new trail was planned at Hidden Pond Nature Center, Fairfax County Park Authority archaeologists were called on to conduct an excavation, as required by the county. There are records of an 18th century house site in the area, so there was a high possibility that there would be artifacts.

First, the archaeologists excavated shovel test pits (STPs), which are round holes measuring approximately 40 cm and placed at regular intervals along the future trail alignment. They screen the soils from those areas for artifacts. Several sequential STPs contained artifacts dating to the early- to mid-19th century. As a result, the archaeologists excavated larger, one-meter square test units in the area.

Among the artifacts was this white clay tobacco pipe bowl with a molded face decoration. The pipe bowl was recovered in context with numerous artifacts dating to approximately 1820-1860. The time frame fits perfectly to a period when tobacco pipes decorated in this style were popular. The face is believed to represent a Middle Eastern person, perhaps Turkish, based on the moustache and headwear. Because sizes, shapes, and decorations changed rapidly to match contemporary popular culture, and because they tended to be used, broken, and discarded shortly after purchase, tobacco pipes help archaeologists tightly date sites.

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