[NPS Arrowhead]
U.S. Dept. of Interior National Park Service Archeology Program Quick Menu Features * Sitemap * Home

Archeology for Interpreters > 9. Use What You Know: Highlighted Case Study

What do broken dishes, rusty nails and oyster shells really tell us about the people who lived at this site?

Household association

The Hooe Dependency Site is believed to have been occupied by an enslaved African American household that likely served as field laborers for Hazel Plain. This is based on three lines of evidence: 1) the site's occupation date derived from ceramics and nails recovered during excavation, 2) the presence of Colono Ware ceramics at the site, and 3) the site's distance from the main house.

Ceramics, Nails and Historical Records: 308 ceramic sherds (creamware, pearlware, and whiteware) were recovered from the site. The mean ceramic date of these sherds is 1814. The presence of cut nails at the site suggests that the latest occupation date would have been prior to the 1830s. During this time, the Bernard Hooe family owned Hazel Plain. Between 1810 and 1822, 50 to 70 enslaved African Americans also resided at Hazel Plain. The date ranges of artifacts found at the Hooe Dependency Site fall within this time period. Quite possibly the structure at the Hooe Dependency Site was built to accommodate the sharp rise of enslaved laborers on the estate in 1810. The Hooe Dependency Site was likely abandoned in 1823 when most of these laborers were transferred to Bradley Plantation, owned by Bernard Hooe's son.

[photo] Fragments 
                  of Colono Ware-a hand-made, unglazed earthenware-recovered from 
                  the Hooe Dependency Site. Colono Ware has been found at many 
                  antebellum sites and may have been made by enslaved African 
                  American artisans. (Heather Hembrey, University of Maryland)

Fragments of Colono Ware-a hand-made, unglazed earthenware-recovered from the Hooe Dependency Site. Colono Ware has been found at many antebellum sites and may have been made by enslaved African American artisans. (Heather Hembrey, University of Maryland)

Colono Ware: Archeologists recovered twenty-two sherds of Colono Ware from the Hooe Dependency Site. This ceramic has been found at four other sites at Manassas National Battlefield Park that were likely occupied by enslaved and free African Americans (Parker and Hernigle 1990; Galke 1992). In addition, Colono Ware has been recovered from many enslaved laborers' quarters excavated in Virginia and the American South. The combination of Colono Ware ceramics at the Hooe Dependency Site and the site location presents strong evidence for its association with enslaved and free African Americans.

Distance to Hazel Plain's main house: Given the site's potential association with Hazel Plain, the distance of the Hooe Dependency Site from the estate's main house presents clues as to the labor role of the site's inhabitants. In general, enslaved domestics and craftspeople resided near an estate's main complex, putting them close to the main house and workshops. Enslaved field hands, on the other hand, frequently lived closer to the fields in which they worked. This often placed their residences some distance away from the main house (Reeves: n.d.).

Use what you know

The What do Archeologists Do? and How do Archeologists Figure Out How Old Things Are? sections of this guide introduce you to methods archeologists use to identify, analyze and interpret artifacts. Questions you may wish to consider as you plan to interpret archeological resources at Manassas National Battlefield Park are:

In what ways can archeologists organize artifacts for analysis?

  • How may artifacts indicate the types of activities that took place at a site?
  • How can artifacts contribute to or change what we know about the past occupants of an archeological site?
  • What message or messages about the meaning of artifacts do you want visitors to take away with them?

TSM/MJB