This fabulous field trip was originally scheduled for Friday, June 7, but due to the tropical storms, we decided to push it back to Monday in hopes of better weather, because if you haven't noticed it yet, archaeologists can’t dig or view other dig sites in the rain. Of course, it also rained on Monday, but we continued on with our journey ahead of us and learning goals in mind. In reference to Monticello, visiting the James Fort and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Archaeology lab was to compare the differences in the soil textures between the Piedmont region (Monticello) and the Coastal Plain region (James Fort, Williamsburg), but also to view their artifacts collections from the sites, and then compare and analyze them with the artifacts found within our own back at Monticello. One primary example is the use of oyster shells as a dating tool in the Coastal Plain (especially Williamsburg), due to their abundance and popularity, and their natural aging records are marked on the interior arches (similar to tree rings), which is similar to the ceramic techniques used to hypothesis an estimated site occupation date.
First stop of the morning was to meet up with Dr. William Kelso, the Director of Research and Interpretation for the Jamestown Rediscovery (M.A. early American history, College of William and Mary, and Ph.D. in Historical Archaeology from Emory University), who was also once a research archaeologist and director of archaeology (1986-1993) at Monticello and began the field school himself during his time with the Jefferson Foundation. Dr. Kelso is also a long-time mentor and friend of Dr. Neiman.
Once we arrived at James Fort, we headed directly to the yard behind the Fort’s church tower, which dates back to 1639. The tower serves as the key to orientating and interpreting the settlement’s physical structures and recreating the surrounding buildings based off of primary documentation from the settlers. The site in the following photos lies behind the 1639 church, away from the James River. At the time of our visit, the Jamestown Field School program was excavating the yard to determine how far the church yard extended after a mid-18th century donation of land, and to evaluate how much fill (human deposited sediment) during the Civil War when the land was used as Fort Pocahontas, which stood adjacent to the seventeenth-century church tower. The photo reveals what the archaeologists believe to be a continuation of the fencing from the original church.
(The James Fort 1639 church tower remains)
The next photo is the excavation area where "Jane" was found in the last year of excavations. The evidence on Jane's bones proves that during the year of 1609-1610, the settlement suffered heavy starvation issues due to insufficient supplies and trade relationships with the local Virginian Indians. Jane's skulls had significant scratch marks evident of death by cannibalism. At 14 years old, Jane was the victim of her own community's desperation for relief and survival from the starvation which plagued the young British colony.
(Excavation where "Jane" was found. This would have been the kitchen- located in the center of the James Fort triangulated community)
(From left to right, Dr. Fraser Neiman and Dr. William Kelso discuss the excavation of the kitchen area and how the discovery of Jane occurred and was confirmed through archaeology, historical documentation, and forensic evidence)
("Jane's" skull with evidence of cannibalism: below the right eye socket a series of small, fine cuts from a knife, made while removing the cheek muscle, the back of the skull shows a series of deep chops, these blows fractured the skull along the mid-line, numerous small knife cuts and punctures to the lower jaw reflect attempts to remove tissues from the neck and jaw, left temporal bone shows results of puncture by a small, rectangular tool, as it tried to gain access to the brain, and the most prominent, the four chops to the middle forehead represent a tentative, failed attempt to open the skull)
The next stop on the fieldtrip was to visit the artifact laboratory to meet with the head of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation's Department of Archaeological Research.
(Monticello Field School students look over the extensive collection, thanks to the Department of Archaeology at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation for hosting us and making us feel more than welcome!)
Stay tuned for more exciting updates!!