Lead Dancing Boy

Project details

  • Object number – 894-JR
  • Material – Lead
  • Place of Origin – England
  • Date – Early 17th century
  • Context – James Fort, Pit 3
  • Location – Archaearium
  • Category – Entertainment

This is a three-dimensional lead figurine of a boy who appears to be dancing. It may be a toy brought for the amusement of a child in the colony. It was found in a trash pit that dates to c. 1610. Four boys were named among the first colonists who arrived in May 1607. These young men served as cabin boys and pages to the gentlemen and leaders of the settlement. Children also arrived with their mothers in August of 1609 and in the spring and summer of the following year, but we don’t know how many. Thousands of people reached Jamestown in its first years, but the historic record rarely mentions children, so their presence is read in the material evidence left in the ground.

The lead boy could also be an object intended for trade with the Indians. Small inexpensive objects called “glasse toyes” were often included in European trading packets, and two tiny glass figurines in the form of an angel and an animal have also been found in James Fort by archaeologists. For comparison, eight leaden figurine trade goods were archaeologically recovered from a 1586 Dutch encampment in the Arctic made during an expedition trying to find a north-east passage to China.