Found in a cellar that had been filled with James Fort’s trash by 1617, this brass mount is cast in the form of a two-inch long broad arrow. Four tangs on the back of the object indicate it had been attached to leather. While mounts were often used to decorate belts, books, and leather straps in the 17th century, the weight and size of the object suggest it once ornamented harness leather.
There were few horses at Jamestown during the first years of settlement as they were difficult to transport safely. Eight horses were sent from Plymouth, England, in May 1609 but arrived in the colony just in time to become meals for the desperate colonists during that “starving time” winter. The next documented shipment of horses was the fall of 1610 and included only two or three animals. Horses must have comprised part of the cargo arriving at Jamestown over the next few years, but their use would have been confined to men of status and leadership.
The broad arrow was used in English heraldry, and the mount probably references a gentleman’s coat of arms. At the present time, it is not known who this individual may have been. Beginning in the 14th century, the broad arrow was also used to signify property of the English crown, and it is still used in the British Commonwealth as an official governmental symbol. This usage of the broad arrow in the 17th century may explain the symbol found scratched on the base of an earthenware porringer found in an early fort-period trash pit. The porringer, originally purchased for use by the Royal Navy, possibly found its way to Jamestown with the personal possessions of one of the mariners who had also sailed with the King’s navy.