“The Queenhithe Pistol” by Howard L. Blackmore.
Note the larger buffer to more firmly arrest the cock’s motion,
an innovation made by 1600 - soon after the English began making the
snaphaunce c1575. Article
provided by Brian Godwin.
Godwin’s explanation, we learn that the innovations on the snaphaunce
necessitate an earlier date than 1605, the more probable range being
Queenhithe pistol was found on the shores of the muddy Thames beneath a
centuries-old loading dock (many goodies in there no doubt) and many of
the components were still intact. Dreadfully,
the finders were not archaeologists and they tried to dry out the wooden
stock… get this, in a pressure cooker! Obviously, all of those metal parts needed a new home stock
and the Royal Armouries Museum made one for it.
Godwin hopes that another one turns up in the Thames mud so that
a sole complete surviving snaphaunce, stock and all, will be available
to us. Ivor Noël Hume
(Jamestown and Martin’s Hundred, Virginia), renowned “mudlark”
also studied this pistol and wrote his 1956 book, Treasures
of the Thames about this and the many muddy great finds below the
was the context of the Buxton dig at 31DR1 you may be wondering?
Charles Heath, the archaeologist that worked with Phelps in
Buxton, explained that the gunlock was found among other evidence that
indicated native use of the gunlock after 1650.
It was discarded purposefully, most likely, for faulty workings,
perhaps. Heath inferred
that locks of this type are routinely found in burials in refuse
contexts on sites that post-date c1665.
Indians were being armed, illegally, by colonists between
1665-1685. Thus, gun parts
were easy for Indians to obtain in trade for deerskins, furs, slaves,
and pottery. Tuscaroras had
increased their efforts to obtain slaves in trade during this period as
well and controlled a greater range than before, dominating the region.
the Croatoan site, a number of fired/flattened shot were found amongst
deer and other animal bone remains, indicating that the Croatoan were
using guns at least by 1675. The
reasoning goes, then, that the Indians of Coastal North
routinely acquired firearms during the time frame the workshop area at
31DR1 (Croatoan) was utilized by the Croatoans in the late seventeenth
and early eighteenth centuries.
text passage in the 1600-1610 photo from Brian Godwin tells of the
earliest reference in documents to the snaphaunce:
1580 - 9 cases of snaphaunce (specialized, state-of-the-art
weapons) each 40 shillings “for light horsemen” sent to Ireland.
Remember where Sir Walter Raleigh served between 1579-83, just prior to
the first Roanoke voyage? Yep,
that was Ireland, under Lord Grey and at the point of activity in 1580. These cases were probably sent for Raleigh’s troops’ use
in the 2nd Desmond Rebellion, probably at the Battle/Massacre
of Smerwick. The snaphaunce in ECU right now (31DR1) could be one
of those, owned by a wealthy man who served in the war and had access to
state-of-the-art weaponry. Raleigh’s
men certainly qualify.
could also be from a piece taken to Jamestown after 1607.
This drawing, taken from Blackmore’s article, was done from a
piece found near Jamestown. It looks similar in many respects, small buffer and a
straight cock, only the fence is missing.
The screw atop the jaws is extended.
Still, it has all the appearances of a 1580-90 piece as well.
From “The Queenhithe Pistol”
by Howard L. Blackmore.
the Hatteras gunlock could also have been sent to America as old weapons
traded for skins/furs with the Indians 1640-1670, as inferred by Charles
Heath. At least there’s a tie between Raleigh and a snaphaunce
like this one (these were probably pistols, too… used mostly by light
Heath presents a fabulous argument for why an English piece this old
might appear later in the mid-1600s, I can’t help but think that a
prototype snaphaunce (of which few were made) would not be around by
1650-60 to send to America and be traded with Indians.
I try to clean out my
garage at least every ten years. Then
again, projecting modern habits onto the past probably do not apply. Still, they serve to let out the romantic in me.
a modern perspective, this early, and agreeably defective, model should
have been long discarded by everyone.
In 1584, however, it was state-of-the-art and would have been
brought by Raleigh’s experienced soldiers for the Roanoke mission.
I may be wrong, but what a wonderful story that would make!
English Snaphance Firearms
– a loan exhibition, Spring 2006 London Park Lane Arms Fair catalogue.
Godwin B.C., “The
English Snaphance Lock”, Spring 2006 London Park Lane Arms Fair
Straube B.A., “A
Re-examination of the English Lock”, American Society of Arms
Collectors, Bulletin No.63, 1990.
Pistol”, by Howard Blackmore – 10th Park Lane Arms Fair
catalogue February 1994
Brian Godwin has
graciously offered several pdf articles on the snaphaunce that I have
made available here:
Archaeology vs Treasure Hunting
From the snaphaunce
article, one can easily see how important archaeology and the resulting
research it enables is to history - more specifically - to the search
for the Lost Colonists. The
smallest piece, unrecognizable to most of us, certainly to an untrained
eye, may indeed hold the clue, and the answer we all seek.
Who among us isn't
mesmerized by the thought of finding that artifact that will solve the
mystery of the Lost Colony? But
like most things in life, there's a right way and a wrong way to go
about that elusive search.
I was recently
appalled to find the following information (with names blanked out to
protect the guilty) on the internet on a site selling metal detectors. A small group of people accompanyed an individual who claimed
to be a "pro", but who is not an archaeologist (nor was the
group accompanied by or working with an archaeologist) discovered and
removed over 400 artifacts from a location under study as a possible
site of the Lost Colonists.
from the website, is their description of what was done:
to the Outer Banks at daybreak. We
were all a bit surprised when the first signal was received after only a
few sweeps. Digging through
the tree roots and vines, I reached the midden layer and from 10"
pulled out a large flat button with engraving on the front as well as
some gilding remaining dating from the early 1600's! This was the oldest
North American metallic artifact I've recovered on land in more than 45
years of detecting and a great omen for the next few days.
Another area <name removed> wanted to try the metal detectors out
on was a tract that
had been examined on previous visits using the Random Shovel Test Pit
method. Laying out a test
square, <names removed> commenced a methodical scan of the area
with the new <name removed> detectors flagging any metallic object
located. After the
section was scanned and targets flagged, a survey map was generated
showing the location of each target and if the target was shown to be
ferrous or non-ferrous by the metal detector. Due
to time and resource limitations, only the indicated non-ferrous items
were recovered. Within the test square area, <names removed>
located 41 metallic targets. All of the artifacts recovered were found at depths ranging
from 12 inches to 30 inches.
the metal detectors provided help evaluate the Indian village site? Well,
the point that stood out after less than a day of scanning the site was
that the Random Shovel Test Pit method which is considered to be
standard operating procedure for most archeological surveys had in fact
painted a picture totally opposite to what the metal detector survey had
removed> summed it up by stating "We located and recovered more
artifacts and higher quality artifacts in 3 days with only 4 people than
we had using conventional methods in 10 days with 20 people at a cost of
$11,000. More importantly,
the metal detectors identified the existence of artifacts in a section
of the site that had been deemed barren through past excavations and
3 days in the field, more than 400 items were recovered. All
of us that spent time at the Croatan site quickly recognized the value
that metal detectors have as a tool to increase the efficiency of data
obtained in archeological surveys by locating high-value areas of
standard archeological methods might otherwise fail to find.
So what is wrong
with what these people did?
artifacts aren't just antiques sold to the highest bidder or the prize
to the luckiest guy with a metal detector.
The context in which artifacts are found gives them meaning,
helps provide an age, and gives them a story.
They can't be reliably analyzed outside of that context.
Furthermore, treasure hunters or those who sell artifacts on the
black market routinely engage in this sort of plunder with no
consideration for history or the damage they are doing.
Let's look at the
button they found, for example. They
state that the button was from the early 1600s.
In the early 1600s, Hatteras island had not been settled by
whites. In fact, it was not
even visited, according to the records, until 1664.
So how did a button get to Hatteras Island and in the midden? And where was it in the midden?
What was located around it would tell us a lot about its age.
Was it a trade item from Jamestown?
Or, given that a professional archaeologist was not involved to
date the item, was the date off? Could the button have been from the time of the colonists? If
so, and if it was found in the proper context that would suggest or
confirm that the button was intermixed with Native items and perhaps
also other nonmetal English items, such as pottery that could also be
dated - this button could indeed be, or could have been, the smoking gun
to prove the colonists went to Hatteras Island.
Furthermore, it could have identified where they lived, the
colonists village site. The treasure hunters presumed it was the Native
village site.....but maybe not. But
now, it can never be more than a treasure hunter's bounty for the day -
in his or her personal collection.
Bragging rights to sell metal detectors, nothing more.
involvement of a professional archaeologist, meaning an individual with
at least a bachelor's degree in archaeology, conducting a properly
documented removal of the objects, the artifacts lose their meaning -
and their authenticity can never be proven or documented after that.
If the treasure
hunting group had been fortunate enough to find that elusive artifact
that might prove the survival of the colonists, they probably would not
have been experienced enough to realize the discovery they might have
made. In fact, they may have destroyed that critical evidence,
proving that the colony survived, far more important than the artifact
itself, in their quest for metallic treasure.
Furthermore, anything not metal, and specifically not ferrous
metal, was sacrificed and ignored, possibly irresponsibly destroyed in
the retrieval of the coveted metal objects.
Cherry picking is treasure hunting and plunder.
Where are these
artifacts today? They
certainly aren't being cleaned, evaluated, studied and cataloged in a
university or professional setting, available for future researchers and
to be made available through academic writing to the public.
They are forever lost to history.
As the treasure hunter said - it's his best find in 45 years of
treasure hunting. Did he
find the colonists button....now forever lost to history?
We'll never know.
It a situation such
as this where the results are so critical to history, this type of
behavior is at least unethical. For
someone who knows better and does this intentionally, it's worse.
about the previous dig taking 10 days, 20 people and costing $11,000 is
referencing a legitimate, professional archaeological dig where Charles
Heath served as the professional archaeologist.
Yes, that would be the same Charles Heath that has been involved
in the excavation and analysis of the snaphaunce in the previous article
and who worked with Dr. Phelps. And
yes, archaeologists do expect to be paid, as do all professionals.
What should have
been done with the metal detectors is that the items should have been
mapped and flagged, and an archaeological crew brought in to retrieve
the items, preserving their history and context.
Louisa Pittman, an
archaeologist on our team from the University of Bristol reviewed this
article for me, and she reminds me that the use of metal detectors is
not inherently bad and they are used in a limited capacity in legitimate
archaeological digs. However,
the items are not extracted out of context.
Mostly, metal detectors are used after the dig and before the
backfill to be sure nothing was missed.
The difference between using metal detectors responsibly and
destructively is how the tool is applied by the people involved.
For more info on
the difference between treasure hunting and archaeology, take a look at
this article http://www.staugustinelighthouse.com/blog/lamposts/excellent_editorial_on_treasur.php
Are you interested
in what has found on Hatteras Island during legitimate archaeological
digs? Great....let's take a
Dr. David Phelps Hatteras Island Excavations
In the McArthur
collection in the History Center in Manteo, Beatrice McArthur clipped
some newspaper articles about Dr. David Phelps archaeology digs which
I've partially transcribed here, hoping they might help preserve the
history of Hatteras Island. Unfortunately,
Dr. Phelps field reports were never completed before his death, and the
information must be gleaned from reports such as this and eyewitnesses
who participated in the digs. Some
of the artifacts are currently housed at Eastern Carolina University.
Ms. McArthur did
not record the names of the newspapers, so I have not reproduced their
stories verbatim. I have
extracted pertinent information from various articles and combined them
into a somewhat coherent article. Most
of these articles appear to be from 1997.
This first portion carried a hand written note that said June,
Dr. David Phelps
has spent the past month digging test excavations at a site in Buxton
which led to the discovery of what Phelps believes is a workshop that
dates between 1650 and 1729. The
crew discovered a littering of lead shot, lead slag and fragments of
brass and copper. Further
excavations led to two hearths, mounds of sand which have been
discolored and changed in texture due to the repeated heat of intense
fires. It was the red color
and density of the sand as well as the abundance of ash content
surrounding the mounds which allowed the crew to identify twin hearths.
So far, excavations
have turned up a lot of European artifacts; white clay smoking pipes,
gun flints, lead shot or various sizes, glass bottles and ceramic
While none of it
confirms the existence of the Lost Colonists, Phelps said, it's helpful
in understanding the life of the Croatoans.
"All these things suggest a strong trading relationship with
the Europeans". We're
beginning to see what it was like for folks from 1650 to 1715, probably
not as good when they owned the whole island."
He called a peach
pit discovered a few days ago "a major find".
The peach suggests
that the Croatans were trading with other southeastern tribes or with
the Spaniards who introduced peaches to the Americas and were growing
them on Florida plantations in the 1600s.
One NC historian
has suggested that the Spaniards had a trading post on the Roanoke
River, Phelps said. Because
no arrowheads have been found it is believed that the musket had
replaced the bow and arrow.
The town midden,
the area where Croatans threw their trash, overlies evidence of the post
molds of Croatan houses.
Phelps and his crew
also made a unique discovery of a number of bone rings, made from bird
bones and approximately 3/8 of an inch in diameter.
According to Phelps, these rings have not been seen anywhere else
in archaeological digs. The
rings could have been used in early trading, but Phelps is unsure about
their direct purpose. He
added that bird bones are a common find and decorated bird bones have
been found in archaeological excavations along the east coast, but never
shaped like a ring.
The Buxton site
itself belongs to Ronald Midgett and his wife.
During the past year and a half Phelps and his crews have made 3
test excavations at the site before the 600 square meter major
excavation of the workshop area. The
crew initially came upon the workshop after opening an area beside a 24
square meter test pit from last year.
Due to the lack of household debris and the presence of more than
one hearth Phelps dismissed the idea of the area once being a house.
to Phelps, the artifacts found at the site are representative of those
that could be found throughout the area of Buxton identified as the
historic Croatan. The