Dating glass by color archaeology

The project came with a multiyear cultural resource effort, led by Penn DOT project manager Elaine Elbich and archaeologist Catherine Spohn, along with AECOM archaeologists George Cress and Douglas Mooney.

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It is the barest sliver of the total Dyottville site, but the only part within the I-95 right-of-way.

Over 10 months, Penn DOT and AECOM revealed the history of the development and expansion of the glassworks, from the foundations of the calico printing factory that preceded it, to the initial construction of the glassworks in 1816, to another building phase in the late nineteenth century.

Curators at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and at leading glass collections, such as the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, Virginia, have long included flasks and bottles from Dyottville among their American glass holdings.

“Dyottville has been talked about for years among collectors and others,” Cress says, “but until now there wasn’t a building [to investigate].” The excavations at Dyottville included portions of three buildings—a glass house, a sand house, and an office/storeroom—in a space of around 9,000 square feet.

Perhaps most unexpected of all—and now most prized among the glass factory artifacts—were the half-dozen or so complete and partial wooden block molds discovered outside a tunnel used for cleaning out furnaces.

“You never find these,” Cress says, because they disintegrate quickly if they are not kept wet.

“This area is better preserved, even though there has been more than 300 years of development.” Dyott eased into glass manufacturing during the 1810s, when he became an agent for three New Jersey glass factories.

Glass manufacturing had begun in northern Philadelphia in the eighteenth century, and around 1820 Dyott began to work directly with one of these factories, the Kensington Glass Works on Gunner’s Run Creek at Queen (now Richmond) Street.

In particular, the excavations have uncovered rich nineteenth-century deposits, with an especially massive quantity of early American glass from the Dyottville Glass Works and neighborhoods nearby where many glass factory workers lived.

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