• Structure 17, Glassblowing and Island Drive

    Historic Jamestowne

    Part of Colonial National Historical Park Virginia

A Campsite pre-1607

NPS artist Sydney King's interpretation of a 16th-century John White painting of Tidewater Indians fishing

"The Manner of their Fishing"

Painting by NPS artist Sydney King based on a 16th-century watercolor by Lost Colony artist John White

The history of Jamestown does not begin in 1607. For thousands of years before English settlers arrived, American Indians had occupied this land, as evidenced by stone projectile points excavated on the island.

Gradually, the Jamestown site became less attractive because of rising sea levels, which resulted in increasingly salty water and marshy conditions. Eventually, the area was only occupied seasonally, probably by hunting or fishing parties. Close by here, archeologists excavated aboriginal pottery sherds and a variety of types of worked stone, suggesting a campsite from the Late Woodland period.

Although Jamestown Island was uninhabited at the time of English arrival, the nearby Paspehegh Indians had established communities both to the west, where the James and Chickahominy could be more easily accessed and controlled, and to the east, where were located tempting oyster grounds. The Paspeheghs, loosely allied with Powhatan’s chiefdom, participated in a series of altercations with the English. In 1610, their principal community destroyed, the survivors fled to seek refuge in other villages.

 

Did You Know?

Atlantic Sturgeon scutes recovered at James Fort.

Sturgeons have five rows of bony plates, called scutes, covering the head and body. These scutes are often found in the excavation of James Fort; the abundance of scutes in the archeological record supports the historical record.