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Of Shells and Ship's Nails
On the Wampum Trail: Restorative Research in North American Museums
  • Margaret Bruchac, University of Pennsylvania
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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?

This is an archived copy of a blogpost from Margaret Bruchac's research blog,

Citation Information
Margaret Bruchac. "Of Shells and Ship's Nails" On the Wampum Trail: Restorative Research in North American Museums (2014)
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