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On the Wampum Trail: Restorative Research in North American Museums


There it lies. In an archaeological collections drawer in the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven, in Connecticut Tier 78, Drawer 4. A single wrought iron nail (perhaps a ship’s nail) rests amidst bits of copper and other metal debris, European trade goods, clay pipe fragments, and a rusty jaw harp, all recovered from a layer of earth four centuries past. This material was salvaged from a dig at Fort Shantok (also called Uncas’s Fort, at Trading Cove), a well-known 17th century Mohegan habitation site, in the homelands of the present-day Mohegan Tribe. At first, this nail is almost too ordinary to notice…but its shape is unusual. This common nail, hammered and drawn from quarter-inch squared iron rod stock (typical of the 17th century) has been re-worked, and the point has been drawn out and narrowed into a tubular shape. Also, the head has been flattened in such a way that it would never hold a wooden seam secure. Who would alter such a good nail? To what purpose?



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Date Posted: 01 November 2016