Archaeological Artifact: Bone Grommet & Parasol Tips
November 12, 2018
By: Jeanne A. Ward, RPA and Alexandra Glass
Finding traces of clothing through archaeology can be difficult. Generally speaking, unless textiles have been found in anaerobic (oxygen-free) environments, such as wells, or in arid climates, clothing is unlikely to survive. At Cloverfields, evidence for clothing and clothing accessories has come from buckles, as seen in the previous newsletter, buttons, straight pins and as the subject of this newsletter: bone grommets and parasol tips.
During the 19th century, and perhaps not so different in the periods both before and after, the style, quality, and fit of your clothing was meant to reflect your wealth and status. For both genders, certain fashions were prescribed. For women in particular there were two: the corset and the parasol.
The bone grommet in Figure 1, recovered from the hyphen (dining room) area excavations, is possibly from the back of a laced corset and could date from the late 18th century through 19th century as variations of the corset were worn over a long period of time. Made from worked animal bone, the grommet from Cloverfields is circular and has a small trough running around the perimeter. This groove indicates where the grommet would have been set between the corset material as an eyelet for the laces. Figure 2 depicts how the grommet would have looked once set into the corset.
Several copper alloy parasol tips from the exterior of the house have been identified from the Cloverfields excavations (Figure 3). These small copper alloy cones would have been attached to the ends of the parasol ribs (Figure 4). Nearly identical tips have been identified at the home sites for several prestigious Chesapeake planters including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
Both artifacts represent items which would have been used daily: one item was seen and the other hidden. Archaeologically, very little of the original object survives, but it is just enough to provide information about the fashions and status of the occupants, particularly the women, of Cloverfields.
The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Online Collections, accessed September 2018, http://fashionmuseum.fitnyc.edu/view/objects/asitem/5786/32/dynasty-desc?t%3Astate%3Aflow=13a2c2f9-9485-4b98-bbae-efd2b3c0de54
Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest, Archaeology Blog: Of Umbrellas and Parasols. Accessed September 2018, https://www.poplarforest.org/442-2/