Sunday, January 10, 2010

Dating the Fork Fantastic

This is why I love doing historical re-enacting. Every now and then you run across an actual artifact that's of the period, but is still in good enough shape that you can continue to use it for its original purpose. Case in point: my fork. Forks--well, eating utensils--were carried by soldiers or sailors, in lower-class households, every person might have had one that were taken care of and kept track of. No taking a real fork to work and then losing it in the utensil drawer because you've got more at home. Every reenactor needs their own utensils. When you go to an event and someone offers you a piece of chicken, you whip out your plate and dive in with your own knife and fork.

So I bought a fork. I found one (okay, Jeff pointed it out to me) at the local Antique Mall, a big, barnlike structure where individual merchants rent cases and you can spend hours wandering around fondling everything from vintage prints to vintage clothes. There were five forks, originally, pewter, with three tines, the initials I.C.R. stamped in the handle. For $25, with a twenty-five percent Christmas markdown, a piece of history could be mine! So I bought one.

This is what my fork looks like:

(Can I just interrupt myself here to say again how truly awesome this computer is? I was bemoaning the fact I'd have to get out my camera and cables and dig up some rechargeable batteries when I remembered that my computer has a camera on it! So now y'all get to see my fork AND what I look like in my pjs!)

Jeff and I were slightly disappointed to discover (once we got the fork out of the case) that the fork had "JAMAICA" stamped on the back...clearly this eighteenth century fork had been exported in the twentieth century. But it was still a good investment...$25. We figured it was from ca 1715-1760, so definitely something that a lower class person could have used in the Revolutionary War.


Remember the Real Pirates exhibit I went to last weekend? (Yeah, I'd hyperlink it, but all you have to do is scroll down) Among the artifacts that were recovered from the pirate ship Whydah was...wait for it...A FORK. Which looks like this:

Look familiar? Yeah, I thought so too. The Whydah went down in 1717, which gives me definite cause to think that my fork was made before Jeff and I did some more research and came up with another shipwreck. This one was the Belle, and it was recovered off the coast of Texas. One of the things the dive team pulled up was a chest of mysteries--here's an interesting article about it--and one of the things in the chest was...guess now!...a FORK.

Belle's fork looks like this (you have to click on this one, it won't let me put a photo on here)

Notice how this one is even more similar to my fork. Three tines in a squared off setting. The three scrolls on the handle. But the crazy part about this? Belle went down in 1686. That puts the "circa" dates for my fork anywhere from the late seventeenth to the early eighteenth centuries.

So with those dates, and the modern export mark "JAMAICA" I am seriously thinking this fork may have come from the ruin of Port Royal, Jamaica, which sank under the waves during a tremendous earthquake in 1692. Whether it's a recovered artifact from an archaeological dig or something that someone finally dug out of grandma's attic, there's no doubt that it's a genuine piece of history...

That is at least THREE HUNDRED YEARS OLD!!!!

I am planning on harassing some of the archaeologists at CW about possibly working out the maker's mark on the back (I can't read it, it's too faint), or at least definitively telling me if I'm on the right track. Either way, it's a very special I still plan on taking re-enacting with me, although not until I make it a safe little pouch to hide in my pocket in.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It’s a souvenir pirate ship reproduction fork sold in gift shops all around Jamaica.