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VCU Archaeology

Death and Dying at Jamestown Rediscovery

by Bernard K. Means, Director

With Jamestown Rediscovery Staff and Volunteers.

With Jamestown Rediscovery Staff and Volunteers.

Digital Curation Specialist Lauren Volkers and I journeyed to Jamestown Rediscovery’s laboratory on Wednesday, March 5, 2014 to scan a number of artifacts in their collection, and to provide Jamestown Rediscovery’s staff with printed replicas of items that we had scanned on previous visits,  including in early January 2014 with our NextEngine Desktop 3D scanner and our Sense Scanner.  The items were printed with a MakerBot Replicator 2.

The printed replicas we brought with us included a sturgeon scute recovered archaeologically at Jamestown, as  well as a reduced-scale Bartmann Jug fragment, a pipe made by Robert Cotton, a negative impression of a basket made by pressing pipe clay into the interior of the American Indian basket, and a dog mandible associated with the “Starving Time.” For the latter we had printed replicas that were painted to resemble the original as well as unpainted versions.

Real, painted replica, unpainted replica of butchered dog mandible from the Starving Time.

Real, painted replica, unpainted replica of butchered dog mandible from the Starving Time.

Sturgeon scute replica adjacent to the archaeologicallyrecovered original and adjacent to scutes from a modern sturgeon.

Sturgeon scute replica adjacent to the archaeologicallyrecovered original and adjacent to scutes from a modern sturgeon.

On this most recent visit, we scanned a number of items for a project that I am not at liberty to discuss yet, but I can talk about three items that we scanned.  With the NextEngine Desktop 3D scanner, we scanned a butchered horse tibia, also from the “Starving Time” and from one of seven horses brought to the New World by the early Jamestown colonists.  We also used this scanner to scan a native-made pipe that was recovered from the “John Smith well” feature, and that therefore dates tightly between 1608 and 1610. A video of this well’s excavation can be found here.

At the end of the day, we used the Sense Scanner to record a forensic reconstruction of a young boy that died at Jamestown just two weeks after the colonists landed.  This unnamed boy was killed with a native arrow, as revealed through careful study of his hastily buried body. More on this latter story can be found here.

Lauren scans the forensic reconstruction of the young boy killed by an arrow.

Lauren scans the forensic reconstruction of the young boy killed by an arrow.

As always, the Jamestown Rediscovery staff and volunteers were very welcoming, including Curator of Collections Merry Outlaw, Senior Staff Archaeologists David Givens and Danny Schmidt, Senior Conservator Michael Lavin, Conservator Katy Corneli,and Volunteer Dick Mayton.  We enjoyed working and talking with all of these individuals who share our passion for conserving and presenting the past.

Katy Corneli discusses conservationof metals  with Lauren Volkers.

Katy Corneli discusses conservationof metals with Lauren Volkers.

I particularly enjoyed talking with Dick Mayton about our replica of the Cotton pipe we scanned in an earlier visit.  He actually mended the original fragmented pipe, and Merry provided him with the plastic replica.  He uses the latter in his public programs–when the weather is warmer!

Plastic replica of Cotton pipe carried by Dick Mayton for public outreach

Plastic replica of Cotton pipe carried by Dick Mayton for public outreach

This latter really helps illustrated the potential of virtual curation, particularly with the ability to tell stories with digital models or printed replicas–while protecting the original object safely in a laboratory, collections repository, or safely behind glass in a museum exhibition. We certainly look forward to a return visit to Jamestown Rediscovery in the near future!

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