A Rare Item Recovered from Feature #45 at Pickawillany

A Rare Item Recovered from Feature #45 at Pickawillany

During this past summers archaeological field school at Pickawillany a number of items of note were recovered from the bottom of Feature #45, possibly a large storage pit or possibly an earth oven in its original use that eventually became a trash pit or so it would seem (see earlier Pickawillany blog entry). One of the more interesting items was a metal brace for an 18th century wooden packsaddle. As the name would imply, packsaddles were affixed to the backs of rider-less horses or perhaps mules to support supplies for transportation over long distances. A number of pack animals, perhaps a couple dozen or more would be tethered together forming a pack train led by a relatively small number of handlers. In a time before wagon roads were cut through the wilderness this was often the most direct and efficient means of moving large quantities of supplies and other goods from one point to another. Considering an individual pack animal could easily handle 150 pounds or more of supplies a pack train of two dozen animals might account for as much as 2 tons of material.

The item recovered from Feature #45 was made of brass with iron rivets. A packsaddle that would have used such a brace would have had semi-A shaped ends and been made primarily of wood. The front and rear portions of the packsaddle would have been tied together with wooden slats or stretchers. The metal brace would have been one of a pair that would have been fitted to each end of the pack saddle to strengthen it and keep it rigid.

According to Mr. Doug Angeloni, a serious student of 18th century military materiel and an OHS volunteer at both Ft Laurens and the Pickawillany Field School, similar items of English origin have been recovered at Col. Bouquets Camp #8 in Columbiana County, Ohio(1763) and Fort Ligonier in Pennsylvania (1758). Both are within a decade or so of when Pickawillany was an ongoing concern (1748-1752). One identifying attribute of packsaddles of that era are the distinctive toggle rods with spade shaped ends used to attach the front or rear of the packsaddle to the stretcher. This feature is seen in the generalized sketch of a packsaddle and on the item in the Ft Ligonier Museum next to it. Note the overall similarity with those and with the item recovered at Pickawillany earlier this year. Once the Pickawillany item is conserved it should provide even greater detail. Thanks to Doug Angeloni for his volunteer time and expertise and to Dr. Annette Ericksen and the Hocking College Field School. Bill Pickard

Posted September 28, 2009
Topics: Archaeology

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