The archaeologists at Historic Jamestowne are making preparations to excavate a hearth and a possible well feature underneath it near the northern bulwark of James Fort. Excavations along the cobblestone foundation of a large fort period building led to the discovery of a brick addition to the building and a hearth. A large portion of the hearth has collapsed into a hole below the floor level of the building. According to the archaeologists, this indicates the presence of a feature that is underneath the collapsed one, which is typically a cellar or a well. Because of the shape and size of the collapsed portion of the brick addition, it is believed that this particular feature is most likely a well.
Further excavations of the brick hearth will start very soon. Dr. Kelso and his crew are eager to excavate the feature but are first preparing a platform to take time-lapse photography of the dig. The platform will be several feet above the feature and will ensure a consistent camera position as the excavation ensues.
Though everyone is excited about what may lie underneath the hearth, the hearth itself is very interesting and the central wall of the brick addition is turning out to be very substantially constructed. Being a full three bricks wide, the wall’s thickness indicates a very substantial building indeed. The weather at Historic Jamestowne has been unusually wet over the last few weeks but things are drying up and we should know more about the building, its hearth, and what lies beneath it in the days ahead.
Wells are exciting features for a number of reasons, but perhaps mostly because the colonists used them as trash pits once the well water soured. As such they are a time capsule of sorts, filled with all manner of things the colonists used (or things that had lost their usefulness). In a well that was excavated in 2002, weapons, armor, flagons, pottery, and nearly 1,400 other objects gave archaeologists a glimpse of the colonists’ life in the 1620s. If this new feature does in fact turn out to be a well, it will be even older than that one. This can be surmised because the building and hearth above it were constructed during the first few years of the colony, while the fort still existed. That the building was constructed over this feature indicates that it had been out of use for quite some time and that its date is very early.