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Horseshoes - The characters traveling though Scotland in the Outlander series make little mention of road conditions, but the highlands have a naturally rocky terrain and the handful of paved roads that existed in the 18th century were made with gravel over a stone foundation. Horseshoes were therefore an important tool for protecting hooves from injury. That was not necessarily the case in colonial Maryland, however, because sandy clay soils were easy on horses’ hooves and few paved roads existed for the first hundred years of colonial settlement. It was not until the mid-18th century — around the same time many events in Outlander take place — that horseshoe use became more common among Maryland’s colonists, presumably because  more people were traveling in areas with improved roads that were harder on hooves than the Chesapeake’s natural soil., Photo image of a horseshoe:Horseshoe, Date: ca. 1670-1770, Site Name: Angelica Knoll, Site Number:18CV60/1.1306 -  Horseshoes can offer archaeologists a number of clues about their date and how they were used. This example has relatively wide branches and a keyhole-shaped opening at the center,  and these were common characteristics of horseshoes made in the 17th and 18th centuries. That matches the occupation date of the Angelica Knoll site, ca. 1670-1770. It is possible that the Johns family who lived at Angelica Knoll were among those who used horseshoes in Maryland before the mid-18th century, or this horseshoe could come from the later years of occupation at the site. Alternately, it is possible that this horseshoe ended up at the site for reasons that had very little to do with horses.  It is clear that this horseshoe was used on a horse because there is significant wear at the toe, but it might have enjoyed a second life as a lucky talisman. Horseshoes have a long history of use as objects of folk magic because of their iron content. They were placed in hearths, buried under thresholds, and nailed to doors — all in order to attract good luck or offer protection from evil forces. For example, in County Leitrim, Ireland, 19th-century folklorist Leland Duncan found oral history accounts of weddings where “The groomsman used also to give the groom a crooked sixpence, and the latter, having killed a magpie, slit the bird’s tongue with the coin, and, leaving it therein, buried the bird with a horse’s shoe under the hearth iron. This was done for good luck.” Some folk traditions specified that in order to be protective or lucky, the horseshoe had to be “found,” so if a worn horseshoe was thrown or lost along the road, that example would have more potent supernatural powers.  There is no way to know if this particular horseshoe was used as a magical talisman, but Maryland archaeologists can sometimes use context to make an educated guess. For example, at the Smith’s St. Leonard site, occupied ca. 1711-1754, archaeologists excavated a whole stable full of horse-related artifacts like stirrups, spurs, bits, and strap ornaments. The stable yielded no horseshoes though. Excavations at Smith’s St. Leonard have targeted the main house, a detached kitchen, multiple slave quarters, and additional outbuildings such as the stable, a possible storehouse, and a possible dairy, but only one horseshoe was recovered at the entire site, and that was in the kitchen’s cellar, which seemed to have been filled with a lot of debris from renovations to the kitchen hearth. It is pretty clear that the Smith’s St. Leonard horseshoe was there not to protect the family’s many horses from rocky terrain, but to protect the hearth and home from witchcraft and other evil forces., Large illustration showing parts of a horseshoe, which includes: heel, quarter, toe, branch, calkins, web, fullering, toe clip, toe grip, foot surface, and ground surface, caption reads:Archaeologists studying horseshoes familiarize themselves with how the different parts change over time. For example, horseshoes of the 17th- and 18th-century tend to have a relatively wide web compared to later examples, and toe clips did not come into use until the mid-19th century. In addition to helping determine the date range, the parts of a horseshoe can offer clues about how they were used. Calkins and toe grips, for example, are made to help horses with traction on slippery surfaces, and not all horseshoes have them.  These attributes hint at the kind of terrain or activity the shoe was designed for.
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