The following is an article excerpt from the Fall 2019 Issue of American Archaeology Magazine. Become a member to subscribe and read the full story!
By Paula Neely
David Givens pointed to a trash pit that archaeologists had unearthed this summer in Colonial National Historical Park in southeast Virginia, which includes the site of the Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the New World. In addition to ceramics and food remains, the pit contained two cowrie shells, symbolic of wealth and fertility, that were used by Africans in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries for rituals and personal adornment. They were also used by traders to buy slaves. A late-seventeenth-century black and white glass beadlike the ones used by the English to trade for slaves in Africa, was also discovered in the pit.
Jamestown Rediscovery archaeologists Lee McBee and Bruce McRoberts excavate a seventeenth-century storage jar from the upper level of a trash midden filled with domestic debris from Jamestown's early settlers. | Credit: Chuck Durfor
A variety of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century artifacts found during the 2019 excavation season. | Credit: Paula Neely
COVER PHOTO: Director of archaeology David Givens (right) and site supervisor Lee McBee (blue shirt) discuss numerous seventeenth- and eighteenth-century features at the northeast corner of the Angela site. | Credit: Paula Neely
A4 Lee McBee outlines one of the three seventeenth-century graves that were discovered at the sites. | Credit: Paula Neely
The remains of an eighteenth-century clamp kiln, used for making bricks, could also be seen. Over 200 years ago, the heat from the clamp had scorched the earth, turning it an orangish-red color, likely obscuring any earlier archaeological features beneath it, according to Givens, the director of archaeology for Jamestown Rediscovery, a project that investigates Jamestown.
In partnership with the National Park Service (NPS), which owns the land, Jamestown Rediscovery archaeologists are searching for evidence of the house where “Angela,” one of the first Africans forcibly brought to English America in August 1619, lived while working for Captain William Pierce, one of the wealthiest men in Virginia. They hope to learn more about her life and her world, and shed light on the struggles of the first Africans to help commemorate the 400th anniversary of their arrival. The story of Angela and thirty-one other men and women, who were traded for food, has been distorted in historical accounts and dismissed for centuries. Monuments to the English and one to Pocahontas dot the Jamestown landscape, but there are none to Africans. African Americans were at one time even denied admission to Jamestown.