Wooden Bowl
Wooden Bowl
  • Object number – #56354
  • Material – Wood
  • Place of Origin – England
  • Date – ca. 1611 – 1617
  • Context – Second Well
  • Location – Collections
  • Category – Foodways

This artifact is the only surviving evidence from Jamestown of the type of serving-ware that most colonists owned and used. High-status individuals consumed their meals from ceramic or pewter plates and bowls. However, the majority used more durable and cheaper wooden plates and bowls, such as this.

It is rare to find wooden bowls on archaeological sites for many reasons. First, because wood is more durable than ceramic, a wooden bowl was less likely to break during its lifetime. However, if it did break, it was easily disposed of by burning, which destroyed the item. Unlike broken ceramics swept into a midden or trash pile, wood objects rarely survive underground because of their organic content. This bowl survived because it was preserved in an anaerobic, or waterlogged context, which prevented bacteria and other microbes from eating away the wood.

This artifact was recovered from James Fort’s second well, indicating that the bowl was used at James Fort as early as 1611. Conservators slowly dried the bowl to preserve it, but it fragmented and warped slightly in the process. Unfortunately, its condition made it impossible to determine the bowl’s original volume, but it appears to be a small dish for an individual portion. It was very likely turned on a lathe, a method which is still common today. Evidence of this manufacturing process can be seen in the rings on both the interior and exterior of the bowl, markings from the tools used as the bowl was turned and carved from raw wood into a bowl shape.

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