Amanda N. Carr
Stephen F. Austin State University
National Center for Preservation Technology and Training
Research on lead cloth seals is a unique field of study with only a rare handful of case studies existing worldwide. While the earliest studies dated to 1908 and 1912, research on these particular artifacts did not experience a renewed interest until the latter part of the twentieth century. This blog highlights the research and examination procedures undertaken on a collection of three (3) lead cloth seals recovered from Los Adaes State Historic Site, an eighteenth-century presidio and misión near present-day Robeline, Louisiana.
Archaeologists like Gregory have conducted numerous excavations at Los Adaes over the past few decades, and cloth seals are included among the objects discovered. For centuries, cloth seals were attached to various textiles and fabrics to ensure quality control and prove that a tax had been paid on the merchandise. The seals were imprinted with various symbols, motifs, and inscriptions, which aid in determining date and country of origin.
Based on visible motifs and inscriptions, three (3) were each definitively identified as Spanish, British, and French. Utilizing portable X-ray florescence technology (pXRF), NCPTT researchers hypothesized that the origins of the unidentified lead cloth samples–and those samples whose provenance was uncertain–could be determined by analyzing the elemental composition of the three (3) known samples and comparing that data against the elemental data for the remaining six (6) samples. While the study was enlightening, more research must be conducted in order for the cloth seals at Los Adaes to be conclusively identified solely on their elemental composition.
Cloth Seals from Los Adaes State Historic Site, known origins.
Blaine, Jay C. and George Avery (Melinda Parrie, Illustrator). Los Adaes Station Archaeology Program Metal Artifacts (Draft Report). Natchitoches, LA: June 2005.