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VCU Archaeology

Cabinets of Curiosity: Re-Rediscovering Jamestown

By Bernard K. Means, Director

The Virtual Curation Laboratory in Jamestown Rediscovery's collections facility.

The Virtual Curation Laboratory in Jamestown Rediscovery’s collections facility.

Jamestown. The weight of American history rests on this now unassuming location—for good and ill. Here, the English established a permanent grip on what, in the furious fires of rebellion, would transform in less than two centuries into these United States. This fledgling colony, established just over 400 years ago in 1607, gave witness to: the first, permanent presence of the English in North America; a time of despair and starvation, accompanied by acts of cannibalism; the first enslaved Africans on these shores; and, the disruption but not destruction of the Native cultures and peoples who called this land their own. And, this past has been, and continues to be, revealed through the careful and dedicated efforts of the archaeologists at Jamestown Rediscovery.

Clinton King works to scan the Confederate bombproof in November 2011.

Clinton King works to scan the Confederate bombproof in November 2011.

Looking back at my calendar, I was shocked to realize that it has been almost two years since I’ve been to visit the fine folks at Jamestown Rediscovery. Surely, a place so significant would draw the repeated attentions of the Virtual Curation Laboratory. Yet, this has not been the case. We were last here on November 7, 2011, when we came and attempted unsuccessfully to scan a Civil War-era Confederate bombproof using our NextEngine 3D scanner at the invitation of Senior Staff Archaeologist (and VCU grad) David Givens. We certainly learned more about the scanner was best suited for, or not suited for, in this situation. But, Jamestown Rediscovery has many, many significant finds worthy of virtual curation.

Mariana Zechini, one of two Marianas at Jamestown that day, holds the jeweler's mold.

Mariana Zechini, one of two Marianas at Jamestown that day, holds the jeweler’s mold.

One of these finds is this jeweler’s mold that we scanned on an even earlier visit, October 5, 2011. This particular digital model came out very well, even if time did not permit us to make a complete digital model—the indentation in the model is from where we placed the original object in clay to support it during the scanning process. Still, the digital model, printed plastic replica, and, yes, chocolate version all have their origins from this scanning visit.

Actual, plastic replica, and chocolate replica of the jeweler's mold.

Actual, plastic replica, and chocolate replica of the jeweler’s mold.

Our team returned to Jamestown Rediscovery today (September 9, 2013) to visit with Merry Outlaw, their Curator of Collections. Merry very graciously gave our team a tour of Jamestown Rediscovery’s wonderful collections, including numerous items recovered from an early 17th century well. Some of these items are very unique and pointed to the probable presence of a “Cabinet of Curiosities” that many proper gentlemen of this time period would have kept for themselves, including a whale vertebra, exotic shells (one from Bermuda), and even an early Roman lamp. In addition to many of the spectacular artifacts of European origin, the early 17th century contexts include objects made by American Indians—including ceramics produced within James Fort by women residing there. Some of the artifacts are being assembled for a planned exhibit on the 400th anniversary of Pocahontas’s 1614 wedding to John Rolf.

Rachael Hulvey holds the Roman oil lamp while others look on.

Rachael Hulvey holds the Roman oil lamp while others look on.

Merry Outlaw, far left, discusses the Robert Cotton material with us.

Merry Outlaw, far left, discusses the Robert Cotton material with us.

As our time at Jamestown Rediscovery was limited to the first half of the day, Merry and I consulted about which two artifacts we would scan during the morning hours. We selected two artifacts produced by pipemaker Robert Cotton: a smoking pipe with impressed designs, and a vessel created by pressing pipe onto an American Indian basket. While I worked to scan the items, David Givens kindly gave a tour of their ongoing excavations to our assembled crew. I also had the opportunity while David was giving this tour to talk about our work with Bly Straub, Senior Archaeological Curator for Jamestown Rediscovery.
Not surprisingly, we plan a future visit to Jamestown Rediscovery—and this time, the visit will be only a month or so away, not another two years!
[on a side note, I should add that this is the Virtual Curation Laboratory’s 100th blog post!]

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Discussion

3 thoughts on “Cabinets of Curiosity: Re-Rediscovering Jamestown

  1. Thanks for sharing! This is a great collection and I can’t wait to see a chocolate Washington Boro face.

    Posted by janet johnson | September 10, 2013, 6:51 am

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: Sturgeons, Butchered Dogs, and Wild Men at Jamestown Rediscovery | the Virtual Curation Laboratory - January 4, 2014

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