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Get the Lead Out: Towards Identifying Lead on Eighteenth- and Early Nineteenth Century Battlefields and Settlements

Author(s): Daniel Elliott

Year: 2016

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Small arms ammunition in America, throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries, consisted of round soft-metal balls. These were mostly lead, although archaeologists have documented other metals such as pewter and silver as additives. Available small arms and related ammunition varied by military unit, and included pistols, rifles, trade guns, carbines, fowlers, and large caliber wall guns, as well as American, French and English muskets. Macroscopic identification of associated bullets alone limits battlefield interpretations. I suggest a formalized regimen of lead ball analyses that combines elemental characterization (portable X-Ray Fluorescence, or pXRF) along with traditional descriptions and quantitative measurements. Traditional analysis documents diameter, weight, firing condition (impact evidence, rifling, worming, ramrod impact, casting evidence), alterations (chewing, cutting, carving), other post-depositional damage (rodent gnawing) and archaeological context. The pXRF information shows promise in identifying ore sources, contaminants introduced, firing condition, age, and military association. If combined with pXRF data from lead ore sources, baseline information can be developed for comparison among battlefields and incorporated into a global dataset with the purpose of better understanding the geographic distribution of military supplies and military strategy at macro global and regional levels, as well as at micro battlefield levels. Get your lead out!

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Get the Lead Out: Towards Identifying Lead on Eighteenth- and Early Nineteenth Century Battlefields and Settlements. Daniel Elliott. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 404678)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -91.274; min lat: 24.847 ; max long: -72.642; max lat: 36.386 ;

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America