the English colonists, Native Americans, Africans, and enslaved and
free blacks who lived and interacted with one another at Jamestown did
not leave behind a written record or account of any sort. Their life
stories, however, do not remain silent. Despite a lack of written evidence,
historians have been able to reconstruct the narrative of Jamestown
through the archaeological record, tracing lived experience and memory
through the material remains of the past.
archeological practice we can begin to uncover what sorts of daily activities
took place, the particulars of diet and dress, and what living environments
might have looked like. Hundreds of thousands of artifacts and ecofacts
(evidence related to the environment or physical conditions of the settlement)
have been recovered: architectural remains (a variety of houses, taverns,
and ordinaries); structures and features related to industry (such as
brick clamps for firing bricks); and evidence of landscape modifications
(such as fields for planting, fence lines, and boundary trenches defining
of the physical remains of Jamestown through archaeological research
vital to our understanding of colonial lifeways during the settlement's
early period. The pipes commonly found at the Jamestown site are a fine
example. Given the early emphasis on tobacco planting by Jamestown settlers
and the rapid success of tobacco exportation, it should come as no surprise
that one of the most frequently found Jamestown artifacts is the tobacco
pipe. Although most pipes were imported from England and Holland, archaeologists
have discovered an impressive number of pipes that were locally manufactured
at Jamestown and other seventeenth-century sites in the Chesapeake.
referred to as "Chesapeake" or "colono" pipes, these
American pipes were made with the red clays underlying the tidewater
region. Whether molded by hand or fashioned in pipe molds, each pipe
received unique treatment in terms of design and stylistic elements
that sets them apart from their European cousins. The Chesapeake pipes'
most remarkable features are the rouletted, punctated, or incised designs
depicting a wide range of motifs, including geometric symbols, local
animals and other nature-inspired pictographs.
of arguments have surfaced among archaeologists to account for the creation
of these pipes, which uniquely combine artistry and functionality. Some
claim that local Native Americans traded these pipes with English settlers.
Others believe that the Chesapeake pipe owes its creation to the social
and cultural interactions of the English, Africans, and Native Americans
who exchanged ideas regarding production techniques and used the pipes
as a canvas to convey various ethnically-related symbols.
As we dig
deeper into the remains of the settlement and uncover greater evidence,
the map of the colonial world continues to expand. Archeological evidence
adumbrates the picture of early colonial life both within and around
Jamestown and also within a broaderAtlantic context. Spanish olive jars,
for example, known as botijas peruleras,
or "jars of the New World," present us with yet another critical
window into the physical world of Jamestown. This earthenware object
is commonly known among scholars as a Spanish olive jar, but that label
is misleading. Spanish merchants used these cheap and sturdy containers
for transporting rice, honey, wine, turpentine, and many other commodities.
Vast quantities of Spanish commodities were sent to the Americas in
this type of container, and archaeologists have found evidence of them
virtually everywhere the Spanish visited in their global explorations.
The jars were cushioned during transit by a mesh covering. They could
be stacked in a ship's curved hold more efficiently than barrels or
other large containers, and were also less expensive to manufacture.
the jar shown here is generally associated with seventeenth- and early
eighteenth-century Virginia sites, various forms of Iberian storage
jars have been found archaeologically dating to the late eighteenth
century. The shape and form of the Spanish olive jars found at Jamestown
indicate that they once held wine or oil. Documentary sources indicate
that both food items were imported during the early years. How the jars
came to be at the English colony at Jamestown remains a mystery. The
jars could have been sent through the Virginia Company or obtained through
privateering or from smugglers. However they arrived at Jamestown, the
Spanish olive jars point to a range of historical questions about the
map of colonial trade and the early influence of the Spanish in the
remains of Jamestown provide unique insight
into the nature of colonial life. However, the physical remains constitute
only a part of the picture. An understanding of the importance of archeological
evidence requires the choreography of different sources, including pictorial
representations and first hand accounts. For instance, Theodor de Bry's
engraving of the town of Secota, based on one of the drawings by John
White, the artist charged to make maps and prepare drawings of the land
and its inhabitants on the 1585 Roanoke expedition, is an essential
component of our understanding of the English view of Native Americans.
De Bry's engraving provides a number of important clues for the historian
interested in reconstructing the domestic and cultural spaces of the
houses represented in de Bry's engraving were called yihikans (yee-ha-chans)
and were built primarily by the women of the tribe. The yihikan had
the shape of a barrel vault, with saplings set into the ground at one-foot
intervals in two parallel lines, which were then bent and lashed together.
The frame was covered over with mats that women prepared from marsh
reeds. Bark was sometimes used as well, but required more labor. Until
iron tools were obtained from trade with the Europeans, only elite families
had bark coverings on their yihikan. The only furniture consisted of
lashed bedsteads along both long walls. Inside, a constant fire was
maintained by the women, by which the house could be comfortably heated.
In his Generall Historie of Virginia,
New-England, and the Summer Isles, John Smith describes the houses
as "warme as stooves, but very smoaky" (Smith 31). He goes
on to praise the "the drie warm smokie houses of the Kecoughtan"
evidence and written accounts help to sketch out the structure and character
of the Powhatan household, but because we have little account of what
Powhatan women actually used, we must turn to archeology for a description
of what was inside. Archeological evidence suggests that Powhatan pots,
for example, were characterized by rounded, conical bases which were
designed to be fitted among the coals for efficient heating. Other utensils
found in archeological sites include basin-shaped grinding stones, stone
pestles, hammer stones, and bone weaving needles used to make textiles.
While textile samples have not been recovered, the impression of textiles
has been preserved in some ceramic finds. Other archeological remains,
including pearl, iron, and copper artifacts, enrich our stories of colonial
life and culture.
the narrative of colonial history necessitates an integration of methods,
bringing together the work of the historian, the literary historian,
and the archeologist. The story (or stories) of this small cross-section
of archeological remains and historical representations begins to yield
a genealogy of colonial interaction, collaboration, and cultural encounter.
Whatever the actual significance of these objectstheir representation,
use, and symbolic functionthe physical evidence remains important
to our sense of colonial history, a history that is changing, being
revised, and challenged with each new dig.
Suggestions For Further Reading
Deetz, J. The
Archaeology of Flowerdew Hundred. Charlottesville: University
of Virginia Press, 1993.
Emerson, M. C. "Decorated Clay Tobacco
Pipes from the Chesapeake: An African Connection." In Historical
Archaeology of the Chesapeake. Edited by P. A. Shackel and
B. J. Little. District of Columbia: Smithsonian Institution Press,
Horning, A. J. "A
Verie Fit Place to Erect a Great Cittie:" Comparative
Contextual Analysis of Archaeological Jamestown. Ph.D. dissertation,
Department of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania. Ann Arbor: University
Horning, A. J. and A. C. Edwards. Archaeology
in New Towne, 1993-1995. Report prepared for the Colonial National
Historical Park, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior,
Cooperative Agreement CA-4000-2-1017, 2000.
Hume, I. N. Martin's
Hundred. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998.
and Porcelain in Colonial Williamsburg's Archaeological Collections.
Williamsburg: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1969.
Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America. New York: Vintage Books,
Kelso, W. M., N. M. Luccketti, and B. A. Straube.
Jamestown Rediscovery V. The
Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, 1999.
Mouer, L. D. "Chesapeake Creoles: The Creation
of Folk Culture in Colonial Virginia." In The
Archaeology of 17th-Century Virginia. Edited by T. R. Reinhart
and D. J. Pogue. Richmond: The Dietz Press, 1993, 105-166.
Mouer, L. D., M. E. N. Hodges, S. R. Potter, S.
L. H. Renaud, I. N. Hume, D. J. Pogue, M. W. McCartney and T. E. Davidson
"Colonoware Pottery, Chesapeake Pipes, and 'Uncritical Assumptions.'"
In I, Too, Am America: Archaeological
Studies of African-American Life. Edited by T. A. Singleton.
Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1999, 82-115.
Orser, J., Charles E., and B. M. Fagan. Historical
Archaeology. New York: Harper Collins College Publishers, 1995.
Rountree, Helen C. The
Powhatan Indians of Virginia: Their Traditional Culture. Norman:
University of Oklahoma Press, 1989.
Shackel, P. A. and B. J. Little, eds. Historical
Archaeology of the Chesapeake. District of Columbia: Smithsonian
Institution Press, 1994.
Straube, B. "Who is the Potter, Pray, and
Who the Pot?" In Jamestown Rediscovery
V. Edited by William M. Kelso, Nicholas M. Lucketti, and Beverly
A. Straube. Richmond: The Association for the Preservation of Virginia
Antiquities, 1999, 35-44.
South, Stanley, ed.
Pioneers in Historical Archaeology: Breaking New Ground.
New York: Plenum Press, 1994.