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Artifact of the Month: Copper Alloy Tap
Let the wine flow...

Conservator Terry discusses the brass tap found on Queen Anne's Revenge/La Concorde

Author: Terry Williams, Conservator

Brass tap
Tap before conservation

In modern day environs, taps are literally everywhere. Would it surprise you to know taps have been around for millennia? They have been found on sites dated as early as 1700 BC, for example in the Minoan Palace at Knossos on Crete. Here residents lived in luxury with terra cotta piping and faucets made of marble, gold, and silver. The Roman Empire is famous for its baths, and many of its public baths featured silver faucets. Not only were taps used in plumbing but also in kegs and barrels to dispense whatever beverage they held.

Early taps were a simple construction. A pipe was inserted into a barrel and a stem with a hole cut out (the stopcock or tap) was inserted into the pipe. Depending on the position of the stem, the liquid, whether water, wine, or beer, would flow. The handle of the stopcock morphed over time and as a result is important in identifying the relative date of the object.

Taps from the late to early post medieval period in general had M-shaped or crown-shaped handles. Taps in the 17th and early 18th century are bifurcated, or T-shaped with both ends slightly curved. Finally, 18th- and 19th-century taps have T-shaped handles with straight tops. Following these guidelines, our spigot would date to the 17th or early 18th century.

Tap after conservation

Small artifacts are often obtained while processing dredge spoil. This stopcock was found in this manner during the 2007 field season. It had only a minor layer of corrosion/concretion, attesting to the stability of the copper alloy. Measuring 2.4 inches long, 1.6 inches wide, and 0.5 inches thick, it has a bi-lobe design. This object has been compared to a similar stopcocks from Ft Michilimackinac, MI, and is nearly identical to one found on the Isle of Wight, roughly dating to 1350-1600 or later.

To date, this is the only object of this type from the site. If you are interested in seeing this artifact or many others on display from La Concorde/Queen Anne’s Revenge, please be sure to visit them at the NC Maritime Museum in Beaufort.

Much of the information here comes from a collaborative effort known as the Portable Antiquities Scheme, a program run by the British government through the British Museum and National Museum of Wales. It is designed to encourage the recording of archaeological objects found by members of the public.


The British Museum. 2021. Portable Antiquities Scheme: Accessed May 21, 2021.


-Keg or barrel tap from site 31CR314 before conservation. Image by NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

-Tap from site 31CR314 after conservation. Image by NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

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