This thin lead artifact would likely have been affixed to a small box or furniture, serving primarily a decorative purpose. It is hard to know the type of item this plate would have been attached to but it could be an early type of trunk plate, its unique shape identifying the owner of the item it adorned. Like today’s luggage tags, this artifact may be one of the few finds recovered by archaeologists at Jamestown that can be connected with a specific person.
This plate, in the shape of a wing with nine points representing feather tips, could be associated with Edward-Maria Wingfield, the first president of the council in Virginia. The coat of arms of the Wingfield family is three lures argent on a bend gules. This heraldic terminology means that the shield-shaped coat of arms of the Wingfield family has a red band which runs from the upper left to the lower right (the “bend gules”). On the red band are three “lures argent,” which are silver-colored bird wings. Bird wings with meat on them, called lures, were used by falconers to ensure their falcons returned back to their hand.
Wingfield only served as president for four months before growing unrest led to his deposition and removal from his position on the council. While Wingfield was held as a prisoner, his personal belongings were searched in the hope that evidence of fraud or treason would be found. Financial records and the cape merchant’s inventory of the colony’s provisions were taken, and Wingfield himself recorded that he was unable to recover “diuers other bookes & trifles of my owne proper goods.” This artifact may be the only remaining archaeological evidence of Wingfield’s leadership and the resulting period of conflict in the early establishment of James Fort.