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Old 08-05-2004, 11:13 AM   #1
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System at the home of Chief Powhatan may match map from 1608

Ditches at Indian site date to 1400s
System at the home of Chief Powhatan may match map from 1608
BY ANDREW PETKOFSKY
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
Thursday, August 5, 2004


ON THE WEB
RESEARCH PROJECT:
SASSAFRAS LANDING - It was probably created by Native Americans two centuries before the first English settlers landed at Jamestown.

Archaeologists digging on the site thought to be Chief Powhatan's village have determined that a system of manmade ditches on the property probably dates back to the early 1400s, they said yesterday.

The village, Werowocomoco, served as Powhatan's home and headquarters at the time of Jamestown's founding in 1607.

"This is something unusual and special," said Martin Gallivan, the College of William and Mary anthropologist leading the excavation.


But after discovering evidence of more than 200 feet of the double-ditch line this summer - and after tracing the structure to the early 15th century through radiocarbon dating - the archaeologists are not sure exactly what they've discovered.

Gallivan and his colleagues said they suspect the structure may have been a feature in the village represented by lines in the shape of a concentric double D drawn on a famous 1608 map of Werowocomoco.

They also believe the ditches may have been a boundary dividing sacred and secular areas in the 30-acre village, whose discovery was verified and announced last year. It may even be a boundary of the property around Chief Powhatan's home, the archaeologists said.

E. Randolph Turner III, an archaeologist with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, said the ditch system illustrates that Werowocomoco is a window into history stretching back much further than Colonial times.

"It's a graphic representation of over 15,000 years" of Virginia's human history, he said.

The location of Werowocomoco, where Captain John Smith claimed he was saved by the Indian Princess Pocohontas, had long been suspected to be on the high ground along the York River's Purtan Bay in Gloucester County.

The current owners of the property, Bob and Lynn Ripley, invited archaeologists to investigate after Lynn Ripley began finding an enormous number of Indian artifacts ranging from arrow points to pieces of pottery.

Intensive excavation began last summer with a monthlong "field school" by archaeologists and students, and continued for eight weeks this summer.

This year's dig added to the evidence that a "residential core" of inhabitants lived along the riverfront in a community that existed in one form or another for thousands of years, Gallivan said.

Archaeologists also discovered evidence of a large "house pattern" a few hundred feet back from the riverfront bluffs.

But the find that Gallivan and Turner called the most exciting was the extent of the double ditch system, about 1,000 feet back from the water, that was first uncovered a year ago.

Gallivan said he'd hoped this year's excavation would expose the entire system, but it proved to be too large.

A famous 1608 map sent to Spain's royal family by Pedro de Zuniga, the Spanish ambassador to England, is marked in about the spot where the ditches were found with symbols that include the shape of two capital Ds, one within the other.

Gallivan said the sections uncovered this summer run mainly straight in a north-south direction but start to curve sharply at the north end. He said he suspects a full D-shape could emerge as the excavation progresses next year.

He said an assortment of Indian artifacts was found in the fill removed from the ditches. The radiocarbon dating of two pieces of wood, one of them a piece of charcoal found alongside Indian pottery and tools, established that the ditch existed in the early 1400s, he said.

The scientists will formally report on their findings later this year, but they made an informal presentation yesterday for the benefit of U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Davis, R-1st, who visited the site with some aides and her husband, Chuck Davis.

Also present was Stephen R. Adkins, chief of the Chickahominy Tribe and a member of the Virginia Indian advisory board.

Representatives of six of Virginia's eight tribes recognized by the state government are participants in the Werowocomoco Research Group. The group also includes the College of William and Mary, the state historic resources department and landowners Lynn and Bob Ripley.

Adkins said he feels a personal connection to what in some ways is an ancestral home.

"When I step on this site, folks, I just feel the spirituality," Adkins told Davis and a handful of news reporters and photographers. "The spirituality is there."


Contact Andrew Petkofsky at (757) 229-1512 or [email protected]

This story can be found at: http://www.timesdispatch.com/servlet...=1045855934842
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Old 08-05-2004, 11:35 AM   #2
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More info about this site can be found here: http://powhatan.wm.edu/index.htm Very interesting, indeed.
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