The Archaeology of Martin's Hundred: Part II: Artifact Catalog

The Archaeology of Martin's Hundred: Part II: Artifact Catalog

The Archaeology of Martin's Hundred: Part II: Artifact Catalog

The Archaeology of Martin's Hundred: Part II: Artifact Catalog


The Archaeology of Martin's Hundred explores the history and artifacts of a 20,000-acre tract of land in Tidewater, Virginia, one of the most extensive English enterprises in the New World. Settled in 1618, all signs of its early occupation soon disappeared, leaving no trace above ground. More than three centuries later, archaeological explorations uncovered tantalizing evidence of the people who had lived, worked, and died there in the seventeenth century.

Part I: Interpretive Studies addresses four critical questions, each with complex and sometimes unsatisfactory answers: Who was Martin? What was a hundred? When did it begin and end? Where was it located? We then see how scientific detective work resulted in a reconstruction of what daily life must have been like in the strange and dangerous new land of colonial Virginia. The authors use first-person accounts, documents of all sorts, and the treasure trove of artifacts carefully unearthed from the soil of Martin's Hundred.

Part II: Artifact Catalog illustrates and describes the principal artifacts in 110 figures. The objects, divided by category and by site, range from ceramics, which were the most readily and reliably datable, to glass, of which there was little, to metalwork, in all its varied aspects from arms and armor to rail splitters' wedges, and, finally, to tobacco pipes.

The Archaeology of Martin's Hundred is a fascinating account of the ways archaeological fieldwork, laboratory examination, and analysis based on lifelong study of documentary and artifact research came together to increase our knowledge of early colonial history.

Copublished with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.


Most studies in historical archaeology follow the introductory history by a description of the excavation and, in particular, the methodology employed. This can produce an effect akin to the boredom created by a fisherman who describes his bait, his hook, his line, and his sinker before getting to the size of his catch. It is enough at this point to assert that in the areas opened no sod was left unturned, no posthole unexcavated. in this extensive process of clearance 40 graves were encountered and all of them opened. the trick was to tie correct name tags to the toes of their occupants.

At Site a (the Harwood site) the graves numbered 23, laid out in three groups and evidently at different times. the first to be uncovered was a group of five, encountered in the preliminary testing in 1970, which lay along the outside of the farmstead’s westerly perimeter fence. When first found, prior to excavation, their proximity to the Carter’s Grove mansion’s kitchen (though by no means close) prompted the conclusion that these were the graves of eighteenthor nineteenth-century slaves. There being no physical anthropologist on the Colonial Williamsburg staff, these and all other graves (with the exception of Site J) were studied and reported on by Dr. J. Lawrence Angel, of the Smithsonian Institution.

Because Colonial Williamsburg’s plans for the 1976 Bicentennial called for the use of Site a as the location for craft exhibits, Larry Angel was asked to study the occupants of any encountered graves, the request based only on the tentative conclusion reached in 1970. By the time he arrived, however, we knew that these were not the resting places of later colonial or nineteenth-century slaves, but instead were burials dating from ca. 1620–1645. That conclusion was based on their relationship to the farm fence line and to the presence in some graves of large-headed shroud pins of a type characteristic of the seventeenth century. Unfortunately this information, although shared with Dr. Angel, did not register as it should, and in consequence his preliminary assumptions and conclusions were built upon the proposition that the first five graves were those of black slaves rather than of white settlers. These deductions were later revised, Dr. Angel noting that mouth projection (prognathism), though Negroid in character, was found to occur in a large group of Londoners found in a mass burial in Farringdon Street in 1925 whose remains were attributed to the seventeenth century. in his notes on the Site a skeletal remains, Dr. Angel concluded by saying that “Even with [a] complete skull and skeleton, determination of ‘race’

1. the published source for this suggested parallel is Beatrix G. E. Hooke, “A Third Study of the English Skull with Special Reference to the Farringdon Street Crania,” Biometrika, vol. xviii (1926), pp. 1–16. Careful reading of the text indicates that the London remains had been redeposited from either a charnel house or an abandoned burial ground, and consequently the measured crania were (a) of a variety of dates, both 17th century and earlier, and (b) were disassociated from the rest of the skeletal material. Nevertheless, it can be said with reasonable confidence that at those dates very few (if any) blacks would have been among the Farringdon Street group.

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