Beginning in 1997, a two year archaeological study of the Luyster House site was conducted by the author and Dr. Rich Veit of Monmouth University. The project yielded over 100,000 artifacts ranging from Late Archaic period Indian projectile points to modern artifacts associated with the most recent occupation of the site. Two of the richest deposits came from the dirt sub-floor inside the house and a possible tool shed in the rear yard. A third deposit from a filled in summer kitchen located in the side yard just east of the house will be discussed in the final installment of the Luyster House series. Once structural repairs began on the house itself, exploration of the ground surface beneath the floorboards unearthed a huge cache of artifacts - many complete or near complete in an excellent state of preservation. Several wood cooking utensils were recovered from beneath the floorboards near the fireplace in what was the original room of the house. All four are spoon like in form with flattened heads and cleanly-cut, shortened handles. These pieces may be "turners" or "salamanders" - eighteenth-century terms for spatulas. These were used to turn food over in an oven or griddle, or to serve as scrapers. Another use for utensils of this form is "butter patters" used to "pat" butter into containers to prevent spoiling. The unusually short handles may be intended to allow food to be turned or stirred while the kettle remained inside the fireplace. A kettle that may have been used in the fireplace was found directly behind the barn. This piece had a circular mold mark that dates its manufacture to before 1750. Other artifacts found below the floorboards include a hand-carved wooden boat complete with two holes for masts, and three eighteenth and early nineteenth -century forks.
Clay pipe is a ubiquitous artifact found on many historic sites, with several hundred clay pipe fragments estimated to have been recovered from the Luyster House site. Numerous whole and fragmented pipe bowls were recovered, including one with the initials "RT" - probably the mark of one of the three Robert Tippets, who manufactured pipes circa 1660-1720, although pipes with the "Tippet" mark show up in verifiable archaeological contexts dating into the 1750s. Another clay pipe with the initials "LE" inside a beaded circle was recovered from underneath the floorboards, inside the original room of the old house. It was found at the base of the stone foundation near the junction of the present-day front door. The initials "LE" likely represents the mark of Llewelyn Evans of Bristol, England, who was freed from his apprenticeship in 1661 and manufactured pipes until his death in either 1686 or 1688. The significance of these pipes in relation to the Luyster House site is twofold. First, it suggests the availability and usage of British goods by the Dutch early in colonial New Jersey, with both specimens having been manufactured by makers in Bristol, England. Second, it opens up the possibility that the Luyster House may in fact, be older than the currently accepted date of 1717, or that a previous structure stood on the site. Archaeologists have determined that clay pipes were manufactured, imported, used and discarded all within a year or two.
In an effort to gain the most insight into the potential of the entire site and identify clusters of artifacts and possibly unmapped buildings, an isolated finds survey was performed at the Luyster House Site. The grounds around the house, outbuildings and adjoining fields were explored. This survey uncovered a substantial amount of material including buttons, buckles, hinges, spoons, axes, and shovels, along with a number of miscellaneous farming implements. Several of the more significant pieces included a strap hinge and pintle, a "bag-style" padlock which dates to the mid-eighteenth century, a hand-forged pole axe with clipped corners, probably eighteenth-century and two early flatheaded shovels with crude two-piece sockets. These were all found in one area and may represent the remains of an early tool shed. Other artifacts found during this survey include a Victorian-era broach and two eighteenth-century brass sleigh bells. Another structure found during the survey was an eighteenth-century barn. This barn had burned in the early twentieth century and appeared in the Van Brackle painting shown in last month’s Luyster House article. The heat from the fire was so intense, it melted glass, nails and ceramics into a single mass that was deposited along the base of the walls as shelves disintegrated from the flames. This building was not rebuilt after the fire. Its exact location, dimension and structural remains were unknown until 1998.
Next month, a discussion of the massive summer kitchen artifact deposits and other features will show what archaeologists learned from the excavations at the Luyster House site and how the property configuration changed over the course of 300 years.