These small copper alloy artifacts are the star-shaped spinning element of a spur. When used by a rider, they would help to encourage a horse’s direction or “spur” them forward. Rowels were introduced in the 13th century, and their size and number of points varies considerably. It appears that rowels became smaller over time, however if they are detached from the rest of the spur elements they can be difficult to date. Rowels like the one pictured above with many small points would provide a gentler poke of encouragement to the horse than those that have fewer, longer points.
Most of the detached rowels found at Jamestown are copper alloy like this example, although a few iron ones have also been recovered. Eleven spurs found at the fort site still have their rowels attached, such as this one found in 2014, while 15 rowels which have become detached from their spurs have been excavated.