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Archaeology/Mystery item


Pic 2
Pic 2  
QUESTION: I found the attached in the woods near the town of Ninety-Six, SC. It seems to be made of tin and has the one area that looks like something was attached. Any idea what it is?

ANSWER: Hi Patrick,  

It is an interesting object.  It appears bowl shaped but I have no idea of size.  Could you take some additional photos and send them to me?  

1) "top down". Laying across a tape measure so that I have an idea of diameter.
2)  with it up side down  holding a ruler behind it so that I can have an under standing of its depth
3) a close up of any markings
4)  a close up of the interior with the ruler for scale
5) it appears the the bottom is round, with no flat area, is it dented so that it can sit flat on a table?
6) does it have two round protrusions or only the one?

Ilook forward to the additional pics


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------


QUESTION: Here are a few more pics. Bottom is rounded and will wobble if let go. It only has the one protrusion.  Top has a rounded lip. No marking found.

Hi Patrick,

I think what you have is a portion of an old "smudge pot" these were used as highway signals before they had the electric/battery type.  These would be filled with oil or Kerosene and then lit.  It would burn through the night an act as a warning light in construction zones and the like.  These were used along rail lines to warn drivers of over track movement of trains in a switch yard before the invention of flares and similar warning devices we have today.  

I'm not sure if you have the "whole" pot or just the lower portion of it.  The protrusion on the one side was used to hold a chain and loop used to hang them in storage but the chain and loop have since broken off.  

The most typical type looked a bit like a "bomb" from the cartoons or perhaps like a cannon ball with a protrusion that contained a wick which was lit.  In storage the wick protrusion was covered with a cap and this had a chain attached to the "container".  

After they fell out of use, these became collectables but were also used and modified for may other uses.


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Ralph Salier


Archaeologist for the last 30 years. Norh American generalist and Hopwell culture/Red Ocher culture specifically. Lithics Expert and Ground Stone tools.


Past/Present clients
Numerous museums in US and Canada. Several University Anthropology Departments.

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