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river front excavation
Field school students take notes on the excavations.


WRG member Randolphy Turner describes the goals of the projects: Project Goals

When members of the Virginia Company landed at Jamestown in 1607 they stepped into a world of Algonquin communities bound together within a powerful chiefdom polity centered on Werowocomoco. Despite enturies of scholarship aimed at explaining events of the Contact period, much remains to be learned regarding the cultural perspective of the Powhatan participants. Documentary accounts offer critical evidence of this period, though the English narratives are tinged with biases. Understanding the Chesapeake Contact period requires the study of Powhatan settlements in an effort to consider Native culture history on its own terms.

Two overarching objectives have driven the Werowocomoco Research Group. The first is to investigate a prominent Native village site in order to develop a fuller understanding of the Contact period in the Chesapeake. Secondly, we have designed the research around a program of public outreach and close consultation with Native communities. To date, we have assembled a research team and developed partnerships with tribes descended from the Powhatans in an effort to include Virginia Indian voices in the research. We have completed a comprehensive shovel-test survey and conducted a preliminary field season confirming the site's research potential. Our field research indicates that the site was a remarkably large and dispersed village circa 1607 containing well-preserved evidence of Powhatan village life.

Future research at the site will consider two broad themes:

1) a community-oriented perspective on the development of the Powhatan chiefdom from A.D. 1300 - 1609 and,

2) a study of the material consequences of the Chesapeake colonial encounter from the vantage of a Native center.

Our investigations will focus on changes in the settlement's spatial organization, exchange patterns, and maize production during the periods immediately before and after 1607. Our intent is to contribute to an understanding of how social power came to be concentrated within and exercised from Werowocomoco.