The main "standard" is some form of verifiable evidence that something was in use at a time and place, this is pretty universal in any science/history study all we see here is the "well the must have cause they were smart enough back then" it is to the point of being an embarassment to the sport, even the lower level of participation generaly looks to known, documentable items not wishfull thinking, is buffoon spelled with one or two o's?
This isn't directed to anyone in particular. I'm just throwing this out there. But what I don't understand is if there are several examples, like in the Wnuck auction, then isn't that proof enough? If not, then why? Also, how can people prove they're fakes? Just wondering...
Pare - In the discussion I reported with Mark Baker and Ted Belue they noted that somebody had examined the questionable loading block and pronounced the "wood not old enough", by some standard they were unsure of.
Short of that, I cannot think of any means of disproving that an example, especially one dated by carving, is not authentic. Clearly, any example from the time period in question is not old enough that Carbon Dating would be appropriate, even if the owner would let you slice off a piece to test!
And even if that was possible with a single example, it still wouldn't shed any light on how common or widespread a practice might have been without a lot of other scattered examples & input.
Flintlock Rifles & Smoothbores
Hunt Like The Settlers
I know that I am only going to get of a shot or two when I go hunting, but I carry all of my accoutrements, including about 20 balls, when I go into the field. It is part of the total experience for me.
Well given Ted's place in the world of History, he could call up his peer at the museum that houses the artifact and talk directly with the curator and the preservation staff on the issue and have some real info, not just around the campfire documentation that gets passed in between verses of Rocky Top.........
Montour - Well, Sir, the fact is that both Mark and Ted HAVE examined the artifact, as well as discussing the matter with the said curator and several involved in chemical and wood analysis. So, it was not as you so simple mindedly seem to feel.
What we had there was three pretty thoughtful and well educated folk in the field of history - Mark and Ted as historians and authors, me as a Fed Qualfied Historic Preservation Architect...so, sorry to disappoint you, but Rocky Top was not being sung and instead it was a rather in depth discussion of a subject that all three of us had thought a lot about.
Surprisingly enough, there are actually some highly intelligent folk around a campfire now and then....
So it wasn't just "Somebody" had examined it and found it wanting.
Now I wonder, when did they visit and view the artifact? Since the collection has, from my understanding, been moved from a local museum with the "Owner" as a curator, to a larger museum with more resources, and different standards, and a professionally trained curator/published author who has been known to reenact from time to time, well at least since the mid to late 80's.....
But yes I know there are plenty of really smart people at events, some are connecting with their past, others are just escaping their day jobs or some combination of these and a hundred other motivating factors.....
Montour - I too would like to know more detail re the examination of the artifact, how the determinations were made, and by whom and when. From what Mark said, it seems that he was able to study it in a pretty well set up curatorial situation - so, perhaps this was following the relocation of the artifact to the larger museum.
I am just not sure.
What this all goes back to is that we are somewhat "stuck" on this particular subject. Some will reject the entire notion, while others seem to give it "room" to live a bit. Back to the problem that the absence of something does not mean it did not exist, only that an example has not been found. In this case we have what some feel IS an example, but others reject it as such....so the argument continues!
I would put myself i the "connecting with my past" in my involvement. Heck, my DNA was there, I know that, so I guess I need to connect with that!
If I were forced to make a yay or nay vote on the 18th century usage of loading blocks (say, a gun was pointed at my head by a guy who's last name ended with a vowel), I would have to vote "nay". But since this hasn't happened to me I'll just say that I'm more confused about it than all of you put together.
*Young guys should hang out with old guys; old guys know stuff.*
Hanshi - Likely we shall never know for sure - unless some stash of artifacts is unearthed along with solid dated material...and in that stash we find a nice, dated, loading block....
Don't hold your breath.
Ive yet to meet someone who is not decended from someone in the 18th Century
The re-enacting community has several levels of participation all the way from "old timey looking" to the juried event. Those who chose to participate in the juried events use the standard that if it cannot be proved it cannot be used. These events are produced as a living history event, almost a living museum as such, and they strive to be accurate in their presentation. The phrase "Absense of proof is not proof of absense" is similar to the "If they had had it they would have used it". That could just as well be applied to using a gasoline powered generator to run your camp instead of a candle lantern. I choose to participate in the juried events as a spectator only, consequently I prefer events that hold participants to the higher standard. A person may use any item that he chooses in his own shooting experience, but don't try to pass something off as historical when it is not. Some of the rondy events 30 or so years ago were touted as being historical, when in reality they more resembled the clown tent at Ringling Brothers. Fun? Sure, but not historical.
Archaeology can get folks wrapped-around-the-axel when they don't understand the standards. Part of the problem is folks assume the thinking process of all people was the same in all places. "We are smart now; they were smart then, therefore, they must've thought as we do today, so must've come up with the same ideas" is often one of the mantras that we hear. This was thought to be the case in the scientific community for many decades, but it has been proved not to be so...
The Inca were very smart, built huge cities, had astronomy, a highly accurate calendar (better than ours), had writing, had an empire..., but they did not have the wheel. They had discs, they had wood, they had tools, all the necessary stuff to make a wheel..., but didn't have it. Lots of records survive from them and no wheeled carts or wheelbarrows, no artifacts found either. They also didn't have the vaulted arch. (Are the two connected.., maybe?) So it's very possible that folks with the need, the technology, the materials, and the smarts, may miss one or more things found in other parts of the world where folks also had the need, the materials, the technology, and the smarts. (In fact the idea the Inca didn't have the wheel but built massive stone buildings was thought absurd..., but now it's accepted as fact. Zero evidence of the wheel.)
When it comes to artifact dating that can be difficult, but not impossible. As for the bullet board you would first check the story behind its origin. Then on the surface, does the decoration match the time period? Then you would check the microscopic surface of the wood, and if it was treated with paint, is it proper paint from the time period (like no modern chemicals, etc.?) Is the surface of the item aged from normal exposure to air and sunlight?
As for the wood itself, well that might be easy. All wood has rings, and there is an archive where growth rings are cataloged. It took them a while to establish this, but the record is quite extensive today, and world climate was uniformly changing on a global scale, so that they can get very very close dating. So one can take the pattern of the rings and determine when that piece of wood was alive. This is how they date ancient ships that are recovered from the Black Sea, for example.
So, you look at the rings of a wood item (assuming you have enough wood and enough rings in that wood)..., let's say it's "dated" to the war of 1812, so the rings should show growth stopping at or before 1812 (because somebody could've taken an old piece of furniture made in 1750 that was falling apart, and busted up for scrap, and took a piece of that and made a thingamabob from the older wood) So you are looking for "no growth" after 1812 or earlier.
BUT..., you find the ring pattern shows wood growth to 1825..., you have discovered the item date is inaccurate, BUT you have shown that the item could have been made in 1825... so the curator's date or the story that this thingamabob was used in the War of 1812 is untrue..., but maybe it was used by a famous person who himself was in the War of 1812, but he made it after the war..., and the story got skewed. So a thingamabob "belonging once to Francis Scott Key"... as time goes on the story changes to "belonging once to Francis Scott Key and used by him in the War of 1812". (Ooooops.)
So the item could still have been his, just not during the war...
Could such examination of the date vs. item creation be fooled... of course. As was mentioned, a person takes an item..., say an old door that is falling apart which was built in 1750.., cuts a piece of wood from that old door in 1990, and fashions "an authentic" thingamabob. The wood is old enough for sure. The ring dating would show no growth past 1750.
So then secondary examination would be needed. The tool marks on the wood might show a modern power tool was used, or the exposed, carved surfaces of the wood might not have the same dirt and grime the untouched surfaces have. So if the item was made two centuries ago or more, a uniform deposit of gunk would be present, but if the exterior of the item has candle soot and whale oil deposits, and the holes have clean wood with perhaps some sort of pigment used to age the wood, you'd have found a fraud.
So IF somebody tells you "the wood isn't old enough" then there is some physical evidence showing the dating of the wood (which if done by rings is pretty much like a finger print) and the date on the item, are very much skewed.
There are lots of additional stuff that could be done but once you find the right piece of evidence, it is usually considered a "smoking gun" and no further investigation is warranted. I remember an art forger who took an antique door, which was old enough, and for the particular artist was what he sometimes used when he had no canvas. The forger found a sketch of a "lost" masterpiece..., nobody ever saw the finished work, maybe it was never painted or maybe in was lost during one of the world wars?? The forger made brushes and paint as the old master would've, he had endowed himself through years of study with the master's painting technique, and he aged the surface of the masterpiece with soot from tallow candles, etc. He pronounced he had found a long lost masterpiece, and expected to be paid quite well at auction. The experts agreed, the item was authentic...
The tests all agreed as well, until one intrepid fellow looked at the white paint, and found that the white pigment in the paint was composed of a 20th century pigment, by examination under an electron microscope, it was man-made chalk not mined natural chalk which was what was available when such a painting would've been painted, so not an 18th century pigment..., voila, the forgery was confirmed!
So the bullet board continues to cause debate. Yes it looks similar to a cartridge box, BUT a box does not hold the cartridges snug as does the bullet board folks. Yes they had the tools to make such, but nobody offers them for sale in any newspaper ad, no death inventories show them, none of the bags that can be dated to before 1800 with accuracy have them or have a place where they could've been attached, nobody mentions them in diaries or journals, ...
But Dave, you can't prove they didn't have them, and the answer to that is one doesn't prove the lack of anything in archaeology..., the facts demonstrate the lack...., see the Inca example above. The burden of proof is on "existence".
Take the Wok. Yes the Wok. A domed piece of steel set on charcoal and used for cooking. They had steel in the 18th century in colonial America, and they could form such a shape with the black smithing tools of the time quite easily. There was contact with China, the home of the Wok, and that contact existed since Marco Polo's time. They had olive oil, rice, cayenne peppers, salt, garlic, onions, peanuts, flour, chicken, plums, black beans, and charcoal.
Stir-fry cooking is healthy, and the Colonial folks were smart and the Chinese were smart, and stir-fry cooking is very fuel efficient and easy. Finally, I cannot prove that woks didn't exist in colonial America..., simply because nobody has found a newspaper ad for them, none have ever been unearthed in America, they are not mentioned in cook books nor in journals, so that's not "proof"..., so lets cook sitr-fry Kung Pao Chicken at the next Colonial American living history event, and lets get some blacksmith to make us a hand hammered wok authentic to what they had in China at the time to make sure we're authentic, and serve the dish at the historic site, and tell the visiting public it's authentic cuisine from the 18th century because we can't prove it's not , shall we?
I think not.
LDThis message has been edited. Last edited by: Loyalist Dave,
It's not what you know, it's what you can prove
Really interesting topic and some very thoughtful responses. Dave, I thought yours was particularly well written.
"Better fare hard with good men than feast it with bad."
Oh, Dave, you're such a party-pooper!
This little item isn't very important, folks. No one has to prove anything. Either use one or don't, and don't worry about it unless you're at a juried event.
"Est Deus in Nobis"
It's interesting the different areas of muzzleloading interest and the degrees of interest within those different areas.
I only recently began using loading blocks for last fall's hunting season simply because it was yet something different I could experience as part of hunting and never even paused to give a thought about if/when/where the idea might have been hatched.
Figured it beat carrying patches & balls in little 3"x5" plastic ziploc bags and that made it another step closer towards the traditional bent.
But have never had any interest in attending a rendezvous, or some juried event, etc...the sun will never set on a day where somebody will come up to me and start counting stitches in something I was using...LOL...and I take no issue with anyone who happens to enjoy those angles of the hobby...to each their own.
Myself, I just like shooting & hunting with Flintlocks, trying a few odds and ends along the way...trying to bag some different game with Flintlocks like the settlers had to do.
It's really a great hobby no matter what level of participation people have...
Flintlock Rifles & Smoothbores
Hunt Like The Settlers
LET ME ADD THIS... ,
My response was directed at the arguments against the archaeology and assessment of the item....,
I USE ONE MYSELF! Yes, yes I do. I don't intend on stopping using one, in fact I have more than one for more than one gun or rifle of different calibers. I even use them when demonstrating stuff to the public. You see they do a wonderful job of showing folks what I mean when I talk about a "patched round ball" as one side of the bullet board they see the round balls wrapped in stripped pillow ticking, and ont the other side I can show them the exposed ball and where the ticking ends. PLUS I can also comment that the bullet board is one of those odd items that could've existed...., I explain the problems of archaeology and perishible materials such as wood and cloth, why something so mundane might not be documented, the fact that records aren't complete, and as comparison, I point to the drop-spindle wool spinner.
Drop spindle wool spinning tools...., the precursor to the actual spinning wheel, which has very little documentation in the New World at certain times..., but we know they had them because the Colonials didn't have spinning wheels in some places, but mention spun yarn and weaving..., have to spin it some way and without a spinning wheel the next tool has to be something like the drop-spindle.
Archeology can be fun, sorta like treasure hunting..., but often it's a pain-in-the-butt.
It's not what you know, it's what you can prove
Something no one seems to have touched upon here. There are two sides: those who do not reenact, and those who do reenact and present an image to the public. For those who do not reenact and don't care if an item is historically correct, then by all means use it and don't worry about carrying it afield or to the range. Have fun. Experiment. Don't fret.
But for reenactors, one of the general rules in presenting an historically accurate persona is that you try to present to the public an image of those material things that were known to be common, not the exception. So if, in all of history, only one item of its kind was ever found, or only one reference in writing exists, or one drawing, and no other examples of its existence can be found... It would not be wrong for one person in the crowd to use or wear that item; it is, after all, documented. But it should not be carried by everyone as though we know they were just as common as powder horns.
Absence of evidence may not be evidence of absence, but in reenacting, unless you can document that it existed in your time period, in your location, and was fairly common, you are better off not to present it to the public as typical gear, clothing, etc.
How many examples of loading blocks are dug archeologically, written about in inventories, supply orders, &c, or show up in period drawings or paintings? Whether or not they existed is in question, maybe they did, maybe not. The example(s) that were found might be real. But one thing that is very certain is that if they did exist, they were not common enough for plenty of examples to show up in more archeological sites, in attics, in documents, or in pictures. We cannot demonstrate that it was a common item carried by hunters or soldiers, or a trade item to the indians.
For reenacting, when in doubt, leave it out.
Vive le Roy!
I thought the magazine about 5 plus years ago had a one page article on a loading block with a Fleur de Le (SIC???) on top and a date 1736 (?) that was thought to be original- any one remember?
But...if I recall I have read at least a couple of references in the journals, etc of a mountain man searching his pouch for more ammunition- sounds like for the most part a bullet board was not used.
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