|Oyster Midden Before It Was Excavated|
|Midden After the Two Easternmost Units Were Excavated|
These are only a few of the questions that we can ask about the oyster midden, but in order to better answer all of these questions, we require a bit of background knowledge on oysters overall.
Although oysters come in many varieties, there are only 5 true species of oyster in the world. These species are the Pacific Oyster, Kumamoto Oyster, Atlantic Oyster, European Flat Oyster, and Olympia Oyster, and they are differentiated based upon where the oysters grow and their shell size and style. In general, these oysters all taste similar, but they do take on slightly different tastes based upon where they are grown. A lot of people liken it to wine, saying that each is distinctly different because of the regions and conditions in which they were grown and produced. The only oyster native to the US East coast is the Atlantic Oyster, which is defined by its teardrop shaped shell and its cream, brown, and dark green shell coloring.
|A Water Tank Demonstrating How Oysters Filter Water|
|Growth Layers on an Oyster Shell|
So what, then, did people in the past do with all of these oysters? Besides eat them, of course. It turns out that there are quite a few uses for oyster shells, including, but not limited to:
- Ground up as feed for chickens to strengthen their egg shells
- Crushed up as pathways, much like gravel is used nowadays
- Restoring minerals to gardening soil by burying them in the ground
- Beds for future oysters to grow on
- Mixed into a building material called Tabby (similar to cement)
- Boiled into a broth, like how chicken bones are boiled in chicken stock
- Scattered across work yards to make muddy surfaces easier to walk upon
- Burned to create lime for plaster
- A remedy for the bite of a mad dog when burnt and crushed (According to the 1783 Virginia Gazette)
What do you think our oyster shells may have been used for?