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Embroidery- English clothing of the 18th century was often embellished with carefully worked embroidery, so the costumers of the Outlander series had good reason to include it on Claire’s wedding dress. In the 1700s, much of this embroidery came from professional guilds which were dominated by men, but women also did embroidery, both in professional workshops and in the home. Archaeologists rarely find evidence of this important craft, but metallic threads do sometimes survive to offer a glimpse of the finery that was popular on 18th-century clothing. This detail from the front of a ca. 1750 English court dress shows off metallic embroidery at its finest. Image from www.metmuseum.org, Metropolitan Museum of Art Accession No. C.I.65.13.1a– c. Image of silver and silk threads under magnification from Silver and Silk Threads, Date: ca. 1711-1754, Site Name: Smith’s St. Leonard, Site Number: 18CV91/377.  These threads don’t look like much to the naked eye, but under magnification their value is clear. Each thread has a silk core wrapped in miniscule silver ribbons to make a shiny metallic cord. These metallic threads would have allowed people to literally wear their wealth, showing off both affluence and fashion sense. Metallic thread embroidery was a specialized craft in the 18th century, requiring its own set of tools and skills to ensure that oils from human hands did not tarnish the threads as they were sewn. That would defeat the purpose of using metal threads, which were meant to shine and catch the light. Metallic embroidery also required specialized care and cleaning, so it created clothing that was relatively high-maintenance. The presence of metallic thread embroidery on sites like Smith’s St. Leonard, which is located on the Patuxent River in Calvert County, Maryland, is proof that the residents of colonial Maryland had access to goods made by professional embroiderers. Historical research indicates that such luxury items were probably imported. For example, records of the ship Jeffries which was sent to the Patuxent River in 1698 lists an assortment of ready-made clothing, including, “1 flowered silk mantua & petticoat with silver fringe,” and several other silver-fringed garments described in detail. The same records indicate that these metallic threads were not just for clothing though; the Jeffries cargo also included lamb-skin gloves and plush saddles that were trimmed with silver. It is impossible to know what these loose silver threads once adorned, but the Smith’s St. Leonard site also produced some metallic threads that are still in the form of a buttonhole, so it is clear that some clothing there had the metallic embellishments. These threads are a perfect example of why archaeologists are meticulous when conducting excavations. They come from a kitchen cellar that had never been disturbed since it was filled with trash and dirt between ca. 1748 and 1754. This cellar is an example of what archaeologists call a “feature,” and intact features like this are treated with special care. All soil from the cellar was wet-screened, which means that it was washed through a fine screen, like a window screen, with a garden hose. That way even the tiniest artifacts are caught, like glass seed beads, pins, fish bones, and metallic threads. Archaeologists then have to sort through all of that fine-screened material to separate artifacts from gravel and other natural debris. In the case of the silver threads from Smith’s St. Leonard, the credit for the discovery goes to archaeologist Annette Cook, who somehow noticed the difference between the threads and tiny roots that were also captured by the window screen. Archaeologists at the Smith’s St. Leonard site recovered metallic buttonhole stitches in addition to loose threads. These threads have tarnished over time, but the buttonhole stitches are shiny in the photo because they are wet; curators store them in water for preservation purposes. How were the silver threads found?First, archaeologists collected soil from the kitchen cellar, second, each bucket of soil was washed through fine screens, which catch everything but the dirt, Finally, archaeologists sorted through the fine-screened material looking for artifacts, including the tiny threads.