We’ve been back in the field since Saturday with the goal of exploring the areas around two promising shovel test pits. From the artifacts we’ve already found, it’s pretty clear people have used this island for a very long time. They’ve had fires, created and sharpened stone tools, used clay pots and even held something together with iron nails. That doesn’t even get us up to the US Civil War. Post-war and 20th century (and 21st century) artifacts are present too.
I’m most interested in figuring out what was going on here during the 17th to 19th centuries. We know from Dan Sayers’ work in the southern Dismal that the maroons and others found, reused and repurposed artifacts left behind by earlier inhabitants. The artifacts from this week’s trenches suggest the same thing was happening way up here in Virginia. One clear example is the little grooved soapstone nugget shown at the top of this post. It appears to be a fragment of a large soapstone vessel that was repurposed- into what might be a pendant or charm.* Based on a quick search of Virginia geology, one of the nearest sources of soapstone is about 75 miles away. Who brought it here? When? Why? How long did it take to make that perfect groove? Who was the person who last held this object? What did it mean to them?
Meanwhile, we’ve also started finding a different type of ceramic. It’s more red than it looks in this photo.
And, huge thanks to fellow AU PhD candidate Justin Uehlein for braving the Swamp’s biting flies for a few days of excavation.
*It could be something else, too. If you have any ideas or have seen something similar, email me!