Archaeological News

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Posts tagged "virginia"

The Virginia museum that holds the famous turret of the sunken Civil War ironclad warship USS Monitor says it is closing the laboratory that houses the artifact because of a lack of federal funding.

The Mariners’ Museum in Newport News has been the congressionally designated repository for Monitor artifacts since 1987. It also houses, among other things, the legendary ship’s two giant guns, propeller and steam engine.

The private museum, which charges $12 admission, says it is taking the action because the federal government, which owns the artifacts, has failed to pay what the museum considers its proper share for their conservation.

The museum also says visitorship had fallen far short of projections related to the Monitor. Read more.

Archaeologists excavating at Jamestown, Virginia, the site of America’s first successful English colony, have uncovered two deep posthole features 24 feet apart in the area of the 1607 James Fort, evidencing a possible structure that has not heretofore been discovered among the many finds and features that have already come to light at the historic excavation site.

A posthole in archaeology is a patch, usually circular, of darker or discolored earth that reveals the location of timber or a wood beam that was placed in the ground to support or define a structure that once existed at a site. Being organic, the timber or wood beam usually would have long decomposed, leaving a visible trace in the soil that archaeologists can recognize while excavating. Read more.

When archaeologists in Virginia uncovered the skeletal remains in 1996 of one of Jamestown’s first settlers — a young European male designated as JR102C in the catalog — they said he was the victim in what was perhaps Colonial America’s oldest unsolved murder.

At the time, archaeologist William Kelso, now director of archaeological research and interpretation at , reported that “the lead bullet and shot fragments lodged in his lower right leg contained enough force to fracture his tibia and fibula bones, rupturing a major artery below the knee. JR would have bled to death within minutes.”

Now, 17 years later, the forensic archaeologists at Jamestown may have identified the victim and, therefore, the perpetrator of the crime. Read more.

Pocahontas, Capt. John Smith and Chief Powhatan get their due Friday in a dedication ceremony that preserves the village site that made them famous.

Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell and Native American tribal officials will dedicate the Werowocomoco (WER-ruh-wo-KOM-uh-ko) site near Gloucester, Va., in a day-long event. Now an archaeological site, the village appears to have held a longhouse, judging from postholes, where Smith famously encountered Powhatan after the founding of Jamestown in 1607.

"One of the most significant archaeological sites in North America, it is where settlers and Native Americans first encountered each other," says archaeologist Martin Gallivan of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va. Read more.

GLOUCESTER, Va. — A farm field overlooking the York River in Tidewater Virginia is believed to be where Pocahontas interceded with her powerful father Powhatan to rescue English Capt. John Smith from death.

That’s a fanciful footnote for many Virginia Indians, historians and archaeologists, who say the real story is that this land was the center of a complex, sprawling empire ruled by Powhatan long before the first permanent English settlement in American was founded in 1607. It was called Werowocomoco, which roughly translates to a “place of chiefs.”

“This is like our Washington,” said Kevin Brown, chief of the Pamunkey tribe. “History didn’t begin in 1607 and there are a lot of people who overlook that.” Read more.

The harsh winter of 1609 in Virginia’s Jamestown Colony forced residents to do the unthinkable. A recent excavation at the historic site discovered the carcasses of dogs, cats and horses consumed during the season commonly called the “Starving Time.” But a few other newly discovered bones in particular, though, tell a far more gruesome story: the dismemberment and cannibalization of a 14-year-old English girl.

“The chops to the forehead are very tentative, very incomplete,” says Douglas Owsley, the Smithsonian forensic anthropologist who analyzed the bones after they were found by archaeologists from Preservation Virginia. “Then, the body was turned over, and there were four strikes to the back of the head, one of which was the strongest and split the skull in half. A penetrating wound was then made to the left temple, probably by a single-sided knife, which was used to pry open the head and remove the brain.” Read more.

Archaeologists at the early 17th century English colonial site of Jamestown in Virginia have been steadily unearthing a 25-foot-long L-shaped cellar located inside the enclosed area of the original “footprint” of the 1607 James Fort, uncovering two remarkably well preserved brick ovens that show evidence of extensive use before they were abandoned to time. 

"These are some of the most intact ovens we’ve ever excavated here at Jamestown," said archaeologist Mary Anna Richardson. 

What is more, they seem to have retained features that would, at least theoretically, permit a person today to use the ovens for baking. According to senior staff archaeologist Danny Schmidt, “these two now we could fire right up today”. Read more.

FREDERICKSBURG, VA. - The first bullet surfaced just after lunch.

As Jon Tucker sifted soil through a screen in September, a corroded lead slug jiggled into view amid the sand and ash excavated from a pit just a few feet from a fenced-off sidewalk and rushing traffic. Tucker waved to his supervisor, archaeologist Taft Kiser, and held up the bullet for him to see.

Hundreds of artifacts followed, along with the contours of a buried cellar holding a rich trove of Civil War history sealed since a ferocious 1862 battle in this Virginia city, which today lies just beyond the suburbs of Washington.

The discovery amid construction of a courthouse was unexpected. But the site has astonished historians and archaeologists for another reason: It represents a “time capsule,” in the words of Kiser, undisturbed through more than a century of urban construction around it. Read more.