Identifying Structure 184

The remains of a post-in-ground building, dated to the Fort Period (ca. 1607-1624), were found towards the western corner of James Fort. Six postholes, designated as Structure 184, were located 34 feet from, and oriented with, the projected south wall of the fort. They likely mark the location of the northern end of a building. The postholes were spaced on exact 10′ centers and formed a line 50′ in length. The building itself may have been longer, but later ditches and a 1950s-era excavation disturbed the areas at both ends of the line. Although no postholes from a south wall were found, owing to shoreline erosion, it is reasonable to conclude that they did once exist.

The 10′ spacing between the postholes was unlike the random spacing of the fort’s mud-and-stud buildings and suggests that the building was timber framed. Joinery would require even spacing unlike the mud-and-stud buildings built in other sections of the fort. Ceramic types from the postmolds were consistent with other early Fort Period collections and include Border ware vessels, delftware drug jars, Frechen stoneware jugs, a crucible with residues, a Martincamp flask, and a Merida-type dish. Other early artifacts of note include a c. 1608 Robert Cotton tobacco pipe and a chevron trade bead.

The line of posts for the north wall of this structure was 34’6″ from the projected southern palisade. Excavations have revealed that the “street” between James Fort’s earliest post-in-ground buildings and the palisade was consistently 10′ wide, which substantiates colony secretary William Strachey’s observation that the fort’s houses were a “proportioned distance” from the palisade. If we assume that the building’s missing southern wall was 10′ from the fort wall, then the building would have been roughly 24′ wide.


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