Archaeological investigations of Jamestown Island have revealed changes in architecture and living conditions through time. In the early years of the colony, most of the settlers appear to have lived in crowded barracks-like conditions. Some, perhaps the gentlemen with more status, had the privacy of their own dwelling even though that personal space could have been only a rudimentary pit house or a tent. By the 1620s, the colony had stabilized enough that there were living spaces that were discrete household units.

Archaeologists can tell this from the foundations left in the ground, but most of the objects that furnished those homes in the 17th century were made of organic materials that generally do not survive in archaeological contexts. Metal artifacts are among the few tangible remains that suggest how the 17th-century homes and workplaces were outfitted. These include iron chest locks and fittings, copper alloy curtain rings, and lead used to hold glass in windows.