Wine Bottle Shape as Means of Dating Colonial Sites
Early Eighteenth-Century Glass Wine Bottles Found During NCDOT's Data Recovery (Conducted by CCR) at the Eden House Site (31BR52), Bertie County, North Carolina.
Globular glass bottles have been produced for thousands of years, but in English colonial contexts they are not common until the middle of the seventeenth century. Glass bottles were rare and expensive prior to 1650; durable stoneware jugs, manufactured in Germany, were far more common for table use during this period. Beginning in the middle of the seventeenth century, large numbers of wine bottles were being produced, and for the first time they became relatively inexpensive. Soon they replaced ceramic jugs on the table for the serving of wine and spirits. Wine and spirits were usually shipped and stored in casks and the bottles filled prior to serving. Many taverns as well as individuals had bottles produced with their name or initials impressed into an applied seal and fortunately for archaeologists, often the date as well. The form of wine bottles changed throughout the Colonial era, and using these dated examples, a typology of forms has been developed. As a result wine bottles are useful dating tools for historical archaeologists. Prior to 1650 the most common glass bottle type was a square bottle with a fluted neck (A). These square bottles were shipped in divided wooden cases and became known as case bottles. In the middle of the seventeenth century globular wine bottles were produced that had long cylindrical necks and prominent string rims. These bottles are commonly referred to by archaeologist as “Globe and Shaft” wine bottles (B). By 1700 most wine bottles were squatter and had shorter necks (C). By the third quarter of the eighteenth century a style referred to as “Mallet Shaped” became the most common (E). This is the shape that evolved into one of the two wine bottle forms that we know today. The bottle chronology presented here is generally derived from Ivor Noël Hume’s A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1969.
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