Hands holding mended clay pot with basket impressions on exterior
Basket Pot

Over the years, Jamestown Rediscovery archaeologists have recovered European pottery right beside Virginia Indian ceramics. Because of their design and material, the two types were easy to tell apart. This ceramic vessel, however, appears to have been made by a colonist but has impressions of a Virginia Indian basket on the exterior. It is evidence that in James Fort there was a complex cultural exchange between English and the Powhatan Indians.

This basket pot is thought to have been the work of Robert Cotton, an English pipe-maker who arrived on the Phoenix in 1608. It is made from the same clay as pipes made by Cotton after his arrival. Although the function of the pot is unknown, archaeologists speculate that it could have been used as a muffle (a vessel used to insulate the pipes during the firing process).

The unique design of the pot is reflective of the interaction between the English and Virginia Indians in the early years of James Fort. The Powhatans were eager to acquire the exotic trade goods brought by the English. At the same time, the colonists were observing the objects used by the Virginia Indians to accomplish tasks in what, to the English, was a strange and unfamiliar world. In the early contexts of James Fort, archaeologists have found artifacts in traditional indigenous forms that were shaped by iron tools. Does this mean the Virginia Indians were adopting the use of European tools in their technologies or were Englishmen copying Virginia Indian objects that were better suited to the new conditions they faced in Virginia? The close contact between the Powhatans and English colonists created a “third space” where objects, materials, and techniques were exchanged and modified.

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