Continued from Home Page
research. Excavations at the site since 2003 have revealed evidence of a large town, including two 200-foot (61 m)-long, curved, earthwork ditches built 1,000 feet (300 m) from the river bank about 1400, two hundred years before the English first visited the area. In 2006 the Werowocomoco Archeological Site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). In the future, scholars hope to find more evidence about the political nature of the Powhatan polity.
In 2014, President Barack Obama proposed future federal budget funding to acquire this site in Gloucester County to make it part of the National Park System. Under this proposal, Werowocomoco would be formally opened to public visitation under the management of the National Park Service. The National Park Service completed acquisition of the property in the summer of 2016.
Thane Harpole and David Brown, two Gloucester-based archaeologists, have been instrumental in the work at the Purtan Bay site since 2002. Starting that year, the Werowocomoco Research Group was formed to begin excavations. The Research Group is a collaborative effort of the College of William and Mary, and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, advised by eastern Virginia tribes.
The excavations revealed a dispersed community of about 50 acres (200,000 m2), occupied from the 13th through the early 17th century (Woodland to early Contact). Artifacts recovered include Native pottery and stone tools, as well as floral and faunal remains from a large residential community. The Research Group has also recovered numerous English trade goods, produced from glass, copper, and other metals, which came from Jamestown. This conforms to colonists’ accounts of trading at Werowocomoco; they noted that Powhatan was very interested in English objects, particularly copper, during the early days of the Jamestown colony.
In 2004, researchers discovered two large earthworks: curving ditches, each more than 200 feet (61 m) in length and located about 1,000 feet (300 m) from the river. They may be part of a D-shaped construction noted on John Smith’s 1612 map. The researchers have determined the ditches dated from about 1400 CE, indicating Virginia Indians had established long-term settlement at this site more than 200 years prior to the English arrival at Jamestown. Earthwork constructions were often integral to ceremonial centers, and these may have defined or separated a sacred area. Continuing discoveries from excavations are helping scholars understand Virginia Indian-European relations. The period of interaction at this site was brief in relation to the many hundreds of years of prior indigenous settlement.
This project is notable because archaeologists and other researchers have carefully incorporated consultation about planning and executing the excavations with members of the local recognized Virginia Indian tribes. These include the Mattaponi, Pamunkey, and Upper Mattaponi, some of whose people consider such sites sacred, as they include burial artifacts of their ancestors.
“When I step on this site folks...I just feel different. The spirituality just touches me and I feel it.” Stephen R. Adkins, chief of the Chickahominy Tribe and a member of the Virginia Indian advisory board.
Because of the significance of the excavations, in 2006 the Werwomocomo Archaeological Site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).
Editor Note: The source of this information are several locations on the web including Wikipedia. During the family reunion in 2011, members visited this site with Archeologist Thane Harpold acting as tour guide and the then owners, the Ripleys acting as gracious hosts.