This interesting piece of fine-grained dark rock was found in Pit 21, a James Fort-period context near by the Governor’s House/Row Houses associated with blacksmithing activities. The object’s diamond-shaped profile and surface markings of regularly spaced circular depressions were puzzling to the archaeologists. Was this a man-made artifact? Consultation with expert geologists soon helped us understand this unique item.
The object is sandstone with fossilized Stigmaria. Stigmaria is a fossilized root from a prehistoric tree that grew in the coal swamps of the Carboniferous era over 300 million years ago! The little round depressions mark where rootlets were once attached, like the bristles of a bottle brush. Stigmaria are found today associated with coal beds. Since our fossil was recovered from a context predating English exploration of American areas containing Carboniferous shales, it probably arrived at Jamestown in a load of English coal which the colonists would have used to keep warm or for fires needed for various trades or industrial activities.