English Flint Points

Project details

The main hunting device of the Powhatan was the bow (auhtab) and arrow (asqweowan). Virginia Indian arrows were fashioned from saplings or a split hardwood such as hickory. The fletching consisted of two feathers (assaouncawh) attached with a hide or sap (uppeinsaman) glue and sinew. Although stone arrow tips are most commonly found by Jamestown Rediscovery archaeologists, other types such as bone and wood are known to have existed. These triangular stone points have been fashioned out of English flint likely brought over as ballast on European ships. Materials such as chert and flint are rare in the Tidewater region, so English flint would have been a highly prized commodity.

Hundreds of flaked stone projectile points have been found around the James Fort site. Powhatan Indians attacked the settlement many times — but arrows were also important symbols of peace and trade. The large number of relatively undamaged points made of non-local materials in this collection is significant. The jasper and dark chert points are materials extremely rare in the gravels near Jamestown. Mottled jasper of this kind is common only in pebbles in areas such as the Eastern Shore and Virginia Beach—areas held by the Accomack, Chesapeake, and Nansemond groups at the time of English settlement. Dark chert typically comes from the Appalachian Mountains—in the territories of Siouan speaking groups. This evidence supports the idea that some projectile points came into James Fort as symbols of cultural exchange, not on flights of violence.

Once Chief Powhatan made the alliance with the English, people became as much a part of the exchange as any piece of copper or barrel of corn. Some European tradesmen and young English boys went to live with the Powhatan, and Indians came to live, work, and eat beside the colonists inside the Fort. As early as the spring of 1608, Chief Powhatan sent some of his people to live in the fort as they taught the English how to plant corn and make weirs for fishing in the James. One Virginia Indian named Kempes lived at Jamestown for almost a year before he died of scurvy in 1610. While living among the colonists, he learned to speak English and attended church services. Documents show another Virginia Indian hunted for one of the gentlemen in the fort and, according to John Smith, many others “had Salvages in like manner for their men.