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Abstract

Bottle seals or crests are one of the more intriguing categories of artifacts recovered from historic archaeological sites. These small blobs of glass were applied to the necks or shoulders of bottles. They were embossed with initials, shields, and other insignia. They bear dates, as well as the initials and names of individuals and families, taverns, vineyards, schools, retailers, and military units. Archaeologists seriating blown glass bottles from colonial sites in North America have employed them as important dating tools. They have also been interpreted as status markers. This paper provides a gazetteer of bottles with seals from eastern North America. It also argues that private seals, bottle seals employed by individuals rather than organizations, served as indicators of economic, social, and cultural capital in early America. They provide insights into various aspects of colonial culture, including the creation and maintenance of male identities, membership in elite groups, and knowledge of proper etiquette. Furthermore, the geographic disparities in their distribution serve to highlight the development of distinctive regional cultures. These simple seals provide a window into lifeways in colonial America and the aspirations, behaviors, and connections between the owners of vintages consumed long ago.

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