For the past few years between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Jamestown Rediscovery’s seasonal archaeologists have worked on weekends. All are former students in Rediscovery’s summer field schools. Since our full-time archaeologists work only on weekdays, our “Weekend Warriors” ensure that visitors to Historic Jamestowne on Saturdays and Sundays have the opportunity to see excavations in action.
Weekend Warriors are tasked with opening excavated features on the site, excavating new units, screening soil, and interpreting the site to visitors. This summer, the weekend crew excavated two units located just east of the area dug in 2016. Contiguous units had been dug over the last four years, and these were the last two unexcavated units adjacent to the north wall of the Memorial Church.
“The location was ideal for the weekend crew to excavate, to answer questions about the area, and to fill in gaps on our map, while also engaging the public,” said Field Supervisor Mary Anna Hartley. “And they did a fantastic job accomplishing all four goals.”
As the Weekend Warriors removed the overburden in the units, they immediately began to find interesting artifacts. Their first big discovery was a well-preserved 17th-century iron spade nosing. As their work continued, they unearthed a wide range of artifacts, including German stoneware Bartmann jug sherds, English and European ceramic vessel fragments, English and locally made clay tobacco pipe bowls and stems, and Archaic Period and Contact Period stone projectile points. They also found two silver coins lost by colonists. One is a quartered Spanish real that was minted in the Americas between 1700 and 1746. Exciting news about the other is forthcoming.
Once the overburden in the units was removed, numerous features on the subsoil surface were revealed. As expected because the units are within the churchyard wall built around 1800, archaeologists identified several graves. A couple of the burial shaft stains indicated that the coffins were hexagonal and tapered toward the feet. All of the burials were mapped, but left unexcavated.
The most exciting discovery revealed here was more planting furrows! These elongated, narrow, and dark soil stains may not have seemed like much to an uninformed spectator. But the team shared their enthusiasm about the features with visitors: dating to 1607, they are evidence of the earliest English farming at Jamestown! The east unit contained planting furrows parallel to the Fort’s east palisade, just like the furrows found in the area in 2016. However, the furrows discovered in the west unit were perpendicular to the palisade. The Weekend Warriors discovered exactly where, in 1607, the colonists switched the direction of their planting rows!
Similar to the 2017 Field School excavations near here this summer, the area revealed no evidence of early James Fort structures. The only post holes found relate to a late 19th-century fence placed around the church foundations.
For an update on the latest discoveries inside the Memorial Church, check out our video on the Jamestown Rediscovery YouTube Channel.