3D Scans of Two Frost Town Artifacts

by Douglas K. Boyd, PI
Frost Town Data Recovery Project
Prewitt and Associates, Inc. Project 216007

On August 4, 2016, Robert (Zac) Selden contacted me via email and asked about artifacts we were finding at our Frost Town data recovery excavation in downtown Houston. He had heard about our work and was going to be in Austin soon to do 3D scans of lots of artifacts at TARL.

I corresponded with Zac and we selected a large stoneware jug and a small glass ink jar for 3D scanning. Rob Thrift took these to TARL on August 17, and he was there that day as Zac scanned them. Then Zac sent me an email on August 28 with links to the two scanned artifact images.

Stoneware Jug

Height  =  26.0 cm (10.2 inches)
Diameter  =  18.5 cm (7.3 inches)
Volume  =  4.73 liters (5 quarts)

Provenience:  Central portion of Frost Town Block D, found in bottom 2.5 feet of fill inside a brick-lined Cistern (Feature 183).

Looking east at Feature 183, a large brick-lined cistern. The cistern has been bisected to expose the interior fill. This is a bottle-shaped cistern that was truncated at the shoulder (its neck and mouth were removed). The remaining portion is about 10-ft wide and 10-ft deep, and it would have held approximately 785 gallons of water. The large stoneware jug was found in the bottom 2.5-ft of fill inside the cistern.

This artifact is a 1.25-gallon stoneware jug that was found in the earthen fill inside a brick-lined cistern. For this artifact, there are two important considerations regarding its age, function, provenience (where it was found), and context (the interpretation of its age, function, and provenience). The jug has no markings on it, so the precise period of manufacture and its maker are not known. It exterior has a biege slip on the vessel body and a dark brown (Albany) slip on its neck and mouth. Its interior is a dark brown (Albany) slip.

Based on its style, we can surmise that it was made in the late nineteenth century or early twentieth century. This type of jug was a common and very useful household item at this time. It would have been sealed with a cork and used to store liquids, typically various types of drinks. Such jugs were reused over and over, much like a canteen.

This particular jug was found near the bottom of a 10-ft-wide and 10-ft-deep cistern that was on Block D of the old Frost Town community. We know from various maps and other archival records that the cistern was adjacent to a house that was occupied in the late nineteenth century by a family of German immigrants named Steiner.

There is archeological evidence that the Steiner may have been razed around the turn-of-the-century, being replaced by one or more smaller “shotgun” style houses. But it appears that the cistern remained in use up until the 1920s. In 1926-1927, the old houses in Block F were all torn down to make way for the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railroad terminal, (also called the MKT Railroad or Katy Railroad). The old Steiner cistern was probably filled in with sediment about this time, most likely a very quick, single filling episode. It is not certain how the stoneware jug got into the fill at the bottom. It is possible that railroad construction workers found it near the houses they were tearing down, and they threw it into the deep cistern they as they were dumping clay inside to fill it.


Height  =  6.0 cm (2.35 inches)
Length  =  6.7 cm (2.64 inches)
Width  =  6.1 cm (2.40 inches)
Volume  = 100 ml (3.38 fluid ounces)

Provenience:  Northwest corner of Frost Town Block D; Frost Town cultural zone deposits.

This artifact is a small glass bottle with a rectangular body and a wide mouth. The glass is light green and translucent, but it has no identifying markings. However, the mold seams and body style indicate that this jar was blown into a mold but it has an “applied lip”–meaning that the mouth and lip were finished by hand. This process for making glass bottles was common throughout the nineteenth century. The body shape indicates that this jar was used to hold India ink for writing (long before fountain pens were created), and the two long grooves across the body were holders for ink pens.

Rectangular-bodied inkwell bottle found in the cultural zone of Block D in the old Frost Town subdivision. The bottle is aqua-colored glass and it was hand-blown with a tooled bead neck finish.

Inkwell bottles were used to hold ink for artists and writers using quill pens, dip pens, or fountain pens tipped with metal nibs. Inkwells were used in American from colonial times and into the twentieth century, when their use declined rapidly as typewriters and modern pens (e.g., ballpoint) became popular.






3D Effigy Vessel from the Belcher Mound Site in NW Louisiana

Earlier this year, I spent some time at Northwestern State University in Northwest Louisiana to scan a collection of Caddo vessels from the Belcher and Gahagan sites. Many of these were illustrated and described by Dr. Clarence Webb; including this effigy vessel from the Belcher site.


Dr. Webb’s  illustration (above) and description of this vessel:

Pottery vessel 3 of Burial 15, Belcher Mound, is a bird effigy vessel found with above 2 in NE corner. It is a small bowl of clay tempered ware, black core, and brown-black surface which is polished, with white pigment impressed into the engraved lines. The head is represented by a conical knob projecting at rim level, encircled by 5 parallel lines. The opposite tail is flat, at rim level, bifurcate or half-disc in shape, with 3 parallel arcs on the upper surface. Small flat tabs project from each side to represent wings, each also having 3 parallel arcs on upper flat surface, from base to tip. 3 parallel horizontal lines encircle the body of the bowl, just below the rim, except where they are interrupted by the projections. Convex base.

Many thanks to the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma, NCPTT, Dr. Pete Gregory (NSU) and the Williamson Museum for the requisite permissions, funding and access needed to scan these important Caddo vessels. 


3D Effigy Vessel (Anthropomorph) from the Miles Collection at ENMU

This ceramic effigy (anthropomorph) vessel comes from the Miles Collection, and is curated in the Department of Anthropology at Eastern New Mexico University. Many thanks to #ENMU for the requisite permissions and access needed to create this scan.


3D Natchitoches Engraved Vessel from the Williamson Museum

Natchitoches Engraved vessel (Caddo) curated at the Williamson Museum on the campus of Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana and scanned with a GoSCAN50.

Many thanks to the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma and the Williamson Museum for the requisite permissions and access needed to scan this important artifact.


robert z selden jr, caddo, archaeology, ceramic, history, craft, tradition, bottle, heritage, louisiana

3D Hickory Engraved (Caddo) Bottle from the Allen Plantation Site

This Hickory Engraved (Caddo) bottle comes from the Allen Plantation site in Northwest Louisiana, and is curated at Northwestern State University.

Special thanks to the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma and the Williamson Museum for the requisite permissions and access needed to make this scan.