menu
William and Mary
search

Return to Potomac Creek (44ST2)

Archaeology at a Late Prehistoric Native American Village

Supported by Virginia Department of Historic Resources

Archaeologists from the William and Mary Center for Archaeological Research revisited the Potomac Creek site in 1996-7 with support from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources . This archaeological investigation was intended to recover significant new information from a portion of the late prehistoric, Native-American village known as the Potomac Creek Site. The work included excavation, mapping, and laboratory analysis. A final report was completed in 1999.

The study was prompted by plans for construction, and Mr. Buddy Oden, the landowner, generously allowed the work to proceed. This 34-x-18.5-m area was first investigated in May 1996 by Cultural Resources, Inc. (CRI). The CRI work revealed a portion of the site investigated first between 1955 and 1940 by Judge William J. Graham and T. Dale Stewart of the Smithsonian Institution. Five palisade lines, eight narrow trenches, a midden-filled ditch, two possible hearths, trash-filled pits, and numerous scattered posts were identified. Filled excavation units from the earlier work were also identified. The project area coincides with the northwestern section of the enclosed village.

More recent scholarship identifies this site (44ST2) as ancestral to nearby 44STl, which was occupied during the historic period. Both sites are viewed as the principal Patawomeke sites where the local weroance (chief) resided. They are also manifestations of the intrusive Potomac Creek culture that appears on the lower Potomac by the fifteenth century. As early as 1608, Captain John Smith was traveling from Jamestown to trade for corn here, and it was also at this location that Pocahontas was captured and taken to Jamestown.

What this work has helped us understand
Village Chronology

Eight radiocarbon dates on carbonized wood from different features have established that the site was occupied between AD 1300 and 1550. The latest dates tell us that this particular village was not inhabited during the post-contact period, and that the neighboring village site had replaced it by then.

Village Development and Function

The fortified nature of this village indicates that it was a principal place of residence. At the very least, it is distinguished from ordinary settlements by the fortifications. Based on this project we propose a refined model of village development, consisting of three different stages (see schematic plan).