This incomplete artifact is a small clay figurine measuring only 2.8 inches (or 70.7 mm) without her head. This figurine is a woman with a small sheep or lamb seated at her feet, which is why she is often interpreted as a shepherdess. She was made in a two-piece mold, as the mold seams on either side of her body indicate, from white ball clay, the same material used to make tobacco pipes and wig curlers. She wears a scoop-neck dress and a necklace and her hair is loose down her back. In addition to her head, she is also missing her left shoulder and arm. In similar and more complete examples found in the Netherlands, the shepherdess holds a staff in the missing hand and wears a wide-brimmed hat. Her skirt may have once been painted red, as the pigment is visible in some spots. Her male counterpart was also discarded in the midden, perhaps after he lost his head, too. While pipe clay figurines are not uncommon on archaeological sites in Virginia and Maryland, we have yet to find a shepherdess like this one.
While regal and religious figurines have been found on other archaeological sites in the Chesapeake region and might have once sat on mantels or in cabinets, this one assumes a pastoral, folk quality. Because of her small size and somewhat crude mold, the figurine may have been a toy for the children who once lived at Mount Vernon. Excavated from Phase 1 of the midden (ca. 1735-1758), the clay couple could have been toys for Sarah Washington, Lawrence and Anne’s daughter.