An Artifact as Stubborn as a Donkey: We Need Your Help?

By Kerry S. González

For our last blog of 2019 we are once again revisiting artifacts recovered from the Trogdon-Squirrel Creek site, a mid- to late-nineteenth-century domestic site in Randolph County, North Carolina. On behalf of the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), Dovetail conducted data recovery excavations at the site, guided by the data recovery plan authored by NCDOT (Overton 2014).

This blog, unlike most others, is putting the role of identification on our readers in the hopes of discovering the purpose of the small copper alloy object pictured below.  Artifacts such as these are often classified as ‘small finds’ as they are, well, small and imply a personal connection.

Photo 1: Small Metal Donkey Recovered From the Trogdon-Squirrel Creek Site.


A total of three of these tiny metal objects were found at the site. They are composed of a thin sheet metal with two very short prongs on the back. Initially we thought they were some type of charm affixed to a piece of leather associated with horse tack, but the composition of the artifact would not allow for the puncture of a hard material like leather.

They were found in conjunction with mid- to late-nineteenth-century artifacts such as prosser buttons, locally made ceramics (turningandburning), a frog gig (wrought-iron-frog-gig), and milk glass mason jar lid liners. Given the context in which these little items were found they are thought to date to a similar time period.

Now you know as much as we do on these interesting small finds. If you have some thoughts on identification please email our Lab Manager at

Overton, Brian
2014    Archaeological Data Recovery Plan: Site 31Rd1426, Randolph County, North Carolina. North Carolina Department of Transportation Human Environment Section, Raleigh, North Carolina.

Mystery Medal

Featured Fragment – Braehead Manor Medallion

By Kerry S. Gonzalez

Overview of Medallion Showing Both Sides

Overview of Medallion Showing Both Sides

Our past blog posts typically include interesting details on an artifact that we find particularly notable. However, for this post we are going to highlight an artifact that we know very little about in hopes of receiving some feedback from our esteemed readers. Dovetail archaeologists found the medallion pictured here in December 2014, while conducting a Phase I archaeological survey at the Braehead property in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Braehead was constructed in 1859 as the manor house of the Howison family. Today, it sits along Lee Drive right in the center of the Fredericksburg-Spotsylvania National Military Park. One of the home’s claims to fame is that General Robert E. Lee had breakfast at this house during the Battle of Fredericksburg in 1862.

The medallion was found while metal detecting on the property. One side of the medallion features a man holding a staff with a two-horned animal at his side. The reverse shows a spread eagle similar to the eagle on Poland’s crest. Originally, the man on the obverse was thought to be St. Hubert, patron saint of hunters, metalworkers, mathematicians, and opticians, but further examination revealed that this item did not picture a saint. Images of St. Hubert always portray a stag bearing a cross between his antlers, which is absent on this medal. The beast shown in the image below is clearly a two-horned animal such as a goat or ram with no cross between the horns.

A great deal of research and consultation went into this small item, but as of this post, it is still unknown if this artifact dates to the Civil War use of the property. Did a soldier carry this piece into battle, possibly as an heirloom item? Was it lost by a passerby prior to the original occupation of the property in the 1850s? Or was it lost at a later date?

Intrigued? We are too. If you have seen something similar, please contact Kerry González at


Braehead Manor


Close Up

Close-up of the Medal Showing Two-horned Animal on Man’s Left Side


Close Up Detail

Close-up of Obverse Showing More Detail

Any distributions of blog content, including text or images, should reference this blog in full citation. Data contained herein is the property of Dovetail Cultural Resource Group and its affiliates.