Heart-Shaped Glass Bead

Project details

This small glass heart was found in 2006 by Jamestown Rediscovery in one of James Fort’s earl pit features. The green heart is suspended between two bone beads along a copper pin, and topped by a suspension loop. Found within a 1607-1610 context, archaeologists and curators believe this likely formed part of an earring, which may have been worn by one of the first women to arrive at Jamestown in August of 1609.

In 1607, the heart symbol was still a relatively young idea. While it has appeared in different cultural contexts around the world over the past 25,000 years, the connection between this now-familiar shape and love did not begin until the 14th century. The heart symbol began to make its way into popular English iconography around the 15th century, when it became directly associated with the human organ, and indirectly associated with notions of love. A major contributor to the popularization of the heart symbol in English society was its first appearance on the standard deck of playing cards around this time.

By the late 16th century, hearts were increasingly adopted as a decorative motif on objects ranging from architecture, to religious items, to personal adornment such as this earring. At Jamestown alone, two of these heart-shaped pendants have been found in similar contexts. Both items were recovered from fill layers likely associated with Lord De La Warr’s arrival and clean-up of the fort on June 11, 1610. This suggests that these earrings were deposited during Jamestown’s “Starving Time” (winter of 1609-1610), which began a few months after the first women settlers arrived at the fort.