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Grant number like: RZ-50242-04

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College of William and Mary (Williamsburg, VA 23186-0002)
Martin D. Gallivan (Project Director: November 2003 to December 2006)

Collaborative Research
Research Programs

$98,181 (approved)
$98,181 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2004 – 8/31/2006

Archaeological Investigation of Werowocomoco, Political Center of the Powhatan Chiefdom

To support an archaeological investigation at Werowocomoco, an early 17th-century political center of the Powhatan Chiefdom in the tidewater area of Virginia.

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, the Powhatan chiefdom dominated early seventeenth century tidewater Virginia. Despite centuries of scholarship aimed at understanding the Contact period in the Chesapeake, much remains to be learned regarding the cultural perspective of the Powhatans. Documentary accounts offer critical evidence of this period, though English narratives are tinged with a colonialist bias. Understanding the Contact period more fully requires detailed archaeological study of Powhatan communities in an effort to consider Native culture history on its own terms. We seek support for an archaeological investigation of the Werowocomoco site (44G132) in Gloucester County, Virginia that combines researchers and descendant communities, academic and public archaeology. 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 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 with evidence of substantial landscape modification during the Contact period. Planned 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, maize production, and exchange patterns 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.