Archeologists digging at a James River plantation near Williamsburg have found evidence of a British settlement that "could bridge a 100-year gap of unknown history" in Virginia, the group's leader said yesterday.
A "garbage pit" filled with tobacco pipes, puritan spoons, lead and pieces of brick that date to about 1680 has been partially unearthed, said Ivor Noel Hume, director of the archeology department at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
The significance of the find will not be determined until this fall when full excavation begins, but it is expected to provide new insights above living conditions and habits of colonists between the founding of Jamestown in 1607, and Carter's Grove Plantation, built in 1740.
Last year, the same archeologists documented the Wolstenholme Towne settlement, dating to 1619, as the oldest British domestic colony yet discovered in the United States.
The original Jamestown site has never been found, although Noel Hume said yesterday he hopes the new find will encourage another search.
Both the "garbage pit" and the Wolstenholme Towne site are on the Carter's Grove property, Noel Hume said. Carter's Grove was a bustling plantation during the 18th century where George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were often guests.
It was built by Carter Burwell on a section called Martin's Hundred, the site of a 1622 Indian raid that left 58 of 140 members of that colonial settlement dead. Those who escaped moved to Jamestown.
The raid marked the beginning of the "Dark Ages" of Virginia's history, Noel Hume said, and it did not end until the establishment of Carter's Grove.
The three-year dig at the plantation, sponsored by the National Geographic Society, has unearthed items that range from European pottery to pieces of suits of armor, Noel Hume said at a press conference here yesterday.
Eventually, Hume said, the archeologists hope to discover clues to the relationship between the colonists and the Indian natives.
Evidence suggests, he said, that Martin's Hundred may have been the site of an Indian community between 1400 and 1600.
"From what we know, there were five years of relatively good relations between the two (colonists and Indians). Half the settlers wanted to convert the Indians to the Anglican church, while the other, more liberal, colonists were constantly trying to placate the Indians," Noel Hume said.
"But some kind of confrontation was in the making," Noel Hume said. Even so, on the morning of the raid, the attack was a surprise to the colonists.
"Evidence suggested that it was planned in advance. Some of the Indians actually had breakfast in the homes of the settlers that morning. Others had spent the night in other colonial homes. Then, as if on cue, the assault began," Noel Hume said.
The digs at the site of the ill-fated colony will be opened to the public on Memorial Day, he said.
"We fear that a good portion of the settlement is beneath the James River," Hume said. "The river has eroded the coast at a rate of one foot per year. But we hope to locate other buildings and determine the actual boundaries of the colony."
Noel Hume said he thinks the "garbage pit" find, which indicates a settlement on the Martin's Hundred site during the 1680s, will show what happened in the period after the Indian attack.
"We know that certain people did come back to Martin's Hundred after the assault, and that there were punitive raids against the Indians to wipe them out, but all records stop at 1650," he said. CAPTION: Picture, Ivor Noel Hume, Colonial Williamsburg archeologist, unearths pieces of pottery believed to date to 1680. 1979 National Geographic Society