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HomeThe DigMay 2010
Where are We Digging Now?

Overview of recent excavations
Overview of recent excavations
Work has shifted to an area along the east palisade wall just south of the church tower. Three 10'x10' squares are currently being excavated here inside which seven burials have been found. Two of the burials are probably children's due to their size. Before the Jamestown Rediscovery team focused on this area, work had progressed on an area near the north bulwark of James Fort. In this area archaeologists believe they have found a spot where the early colonists were producing iron. Just feet away, an ivory compass was found in an early posthole.

Past excavations in adjacent squares have turned up three post-fort-period 17th-century ditches and the new excavations have revealed the continuation of these ditches. Thought to date to well after the fort period, the ditches may have been property boundary ditches or ditches used to keep livestock contained. One of the ditches has a zigzag shape, suggesting that it mirrored a Virginia Rail-type fence.

Excavations in the southernmost square
Excavations in the southernmost square
Seven burials have been found here, two of which are probably children's graves due to their size. On the south end of the excavation area a section of a 1930s utility trench has been found. During the construction of the trench close to eighty years ago, the workers found several artifacts. When William Kelso, head of the Jamestown Rediscovery Project, was first beginning his search for James Fort in the 1990s, he and curator Bly Straube examined the finds of the trench diggers and determined that the artifacts they found could be early enough to date to the fort period. Because of this, Dr. Kelso chose to dig close to the 1930s trench and started to find fort-period artifacts within the first couple of shovelfuls.

In the northernmost of the three squares a near-perfect circle of discolored soil was found with decayed roots throughout. The hole is fairly modern and it is thought that the tree that once stood there was the product of a landscaping effort within the past hundred years. The entire area encompassing the three squares and the surrounding ground had its top layers removed in 1861 to get the soil needed to make the Confederate earthen fort that once covered much of James Fort's footprint.

The slag pit (possible site of an iron bloomery)
The slag pit (possible site of an iron bloomery)
Excavations continue in an area in the middle of the fort near the northern bulwark that was the subject of last month's update. Much of the iron slag pit has been excavated and one section remains which is deeper than the rest. It is thought that this was where an iron bloomery stood. This area will be excavated as part of the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Lord De La Warr on June 12. Also on that day, just outside the fort, blacksmiths from Colonial Williamsburg will be producing iron at a bloomery using the same techniques that the colonists at Jamestown used.

The outlines of the conjoining trenches
The outlines of the conjoining trenches
To the south of the bloomery are two very early trenches that meet together at a right angle. These possibly were part of the foundation of a building, but we may never know for sure. These two sections of trench are likely all that remain of the building as the rest of the archaeological footprint was destroyed when a mid-to-late 17th-century building was built where it once stood. This later building is thought to have burned during Bacon's Rebellion. One of the two trenches is cut by a newer posthole. Excavation of the trench section cut by the posthole led to the discovery of a fragment of an ivory compass. The Roman numerals "V" and "VI" can be seen etched into the compass.

A special program will be held on June 12 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Lord De La Warr at Jamestown. In 1610, the survivors of the "Starving Time" winter boarded the ships Deliverance and Patience and headed down-river in an effort to abandon the colony. Lord De La Warr's fleet had just arrived from England and met the colonists about ten miles down-river from Jamestown. Lord De La Warr forced the colonists to turn around and return to Jamestown. Under De La Warr's leadership and with John Rolfe's successful commercialization of tobacco the colony would endure.

An enhanced x-ray of the halberd shows the detail on the blade
An enhanced x-ray of the halberd shows the detail on the blade
A reenactment of De La Warr's arrival will be one event in a day that will also include archaeological excavations, period iron-making, musketry demonstrations, the mudding-up of a section of wall of the experimental archaeology barracks building, Native American artifact exhibits, a dig box for children and more. The halberd, found in a well in July 2006 and thought to be used by one of Lord De La Warr's troops, will be on display in the Voorhees Archaearium. Conservation has led to the discovery of intricate inscriptions etched into the halberd blade. Several griffins -- a mythological creature used in De La Warr's coat-of-arms - are now visible on the blade. If you plan to join us for the day's activities, please note that one of the bridges of the Colonial Parkway is closed. You will need to use Route 199 to Jamestown Road as your alternate route. Use the map below to see our suggested route.


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More Recent Photos:
Excavation of the posthole that contained the ivory compass fragment
Excavation of the posthole that contained the ivory compass fragment
Senior Conservator Michael Lavin holds part of an iron circle that was used to hold the boards of a buckler (a type of shield) together.  Its x-ray can be seen just below the artifact.
Senior Conservator Michael Lavin holds part of an iron circle that was used to hold the boards of a buckler together. Its x-ray can be seen just below the artifact.
The ivory compass fragment.  The Roman numerals 'V' and 'VI' are highlighted in the blown-up portion.
The ivory compass fragment. The Roman numerals 'V' and 'VI' are highlighted in the blown-up portion.
The iron bloomery built by the Colonial Williamsburg blacksmiths.  They will be demonstrating iron production for the 400th anniversary of Lord De La Warr's arrival on June 12.
The iron bloomery built by the Colonial Williamsburg blacksmiths. They will be demonstrating iron production for the 400th anniversary of Lord De La Warr's arrival on June 12.

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