Copper

Project details

  • Object number – Various
  • Material – Copper Alloy
  • Place of Origin – England
  • Date – c. 1607-1624
  • Context – James Fort
  • Location – Archaearium
  • Category – Exchange

Copper sheet and copper scraps are among the most common finds that the archaeologists make in James Fort contexts. Many of these smaller pieces of copper were likely the byproducts of artisans making copper items back in England, but some may also be from the colonists producing trade ornaments. The heavy volume of copper at the fort site is a clear indication that the English came prepared to trade with the Virginia Indian population. The experience of the Roanoke colony several decades prior to Jamestown, taught the English that the Indians in the region highly valued the metal.

While some of the copper is clearly related to trade there appears to have been another motive for the copper scraps. Research by Carter Hudgins Jr. has uncovered connections between mineral societies in England that had connections to the Virginia Company in form of several colonists. The individuals indentified appear to have been using the copper scraps to alloy with zinc in order to make brass. There was a shortage of zinc in the British Isles and it was hoped a stable source could be uncovered in Virginia.