is the first of a series of multimedia programs on current field
research, contributed by ArchaeoVideo of Philomath, Oregon, and
presented by The Archaeology Channel. Each ArchaeoVideo Field
Communiqué is a report to you from the field, offering a glimpse
into the research world of an archaeological field project through streaming video, still images, and text. Explore this presentation at your own pace. Follow your own path. If you'd like to learn more about the project, click on the links at the end of the page.
This ArchaeoVideo Field Communiqué takes you on location to a dig
site on the East Coast of the United States in the state of Maine
with a team of historical archaeology researchers, students and
volunteers led by Dr. Jeffrey Brain of the Peabody Essex Museum
of Salem, Massachusetts.
Ten miles south of what is now Bath, Maine, near the mouth of the
Kennebec River, English colonists, with George Popham as their
leader, established Fort St. George in the year 1607, the same year
Jamestown, Virginia, was founded. The Popham colonists abandoned the
fort after a year of occupation and the site appears to have been
vacant for two centuries. This fact becomes the major archaeological
importance of the Fort St. George site: it means that we can now
look at that critical, initial year of English colonization in
considerable detail and begin to understand what life of the
colony was like in 1607-08.
Abbreviations: WMP - Windows Media Player; RP - RealPlayer
On Video: Comments from Dr. Jeffrey
Brain (0:41) WMP 56k
Fort St. George
Compare these drawings: (1) a contemporary artist's depiction of
how Ft. St. George may have looked, and (2) the 1607 site plan or
map of the fort drawn by one of the Popham colonists, a cartographer
named John Hunt. In both pictures note the long segmented building
(center right) inside the fort's west wall - "the Storehouse" --
as well as a house type structure ("the Admiral's House" or Raleigh
Gilbert's house) standing perpendicular to and just north of the
Storehouse. The John Hunt map is providing invaluable information
to the Popham Project archaeologists as they search for what
remains of the fort.
On Video: John Hunt Map (1:15) WMP
A building method called "earth-fast" construction was employed
by the English and others at this time in history. Archaeologists
at Fort St. George used the John Hunt map to locate earth-fast post
holes of at least two of the original structures erected there.
The Popham excavations stand in sharp contrast to those of
Jamestown, Virginia, an English colony established the same year as
Ft. St. George. Because Jamestown was occupied continually for a
century after it was founded, layers of earth containing the
remains of different time periods have sometimes mingled,
thereby disturbing the earliest deposits of artifacts and
remains of buildings and making it difficult for archaeologists
there to interpret what they have uncovered. However, researchers
at the Ft. St. George site are finding remnants of buildings, and
features within them, including a hearth in Raleigh Gilbert's
house, as well as various artifacts which have not seen the light
of day for over 390 years.
On Video: Using the John Hunt Map (2:51)
On Video: Post Holes and Post Molds
(2:26) WMP 56k
On Video: Raleigh Gilbert's Hearth
(1:38) WMP 56k
The main focus of the Popham project archaeologists during their
summer 2000 excavations was to locate a building thought to have
been occupied by a man named Raleigh Gilbert (named on the John
Hunt map as "the Admiral's House," but often referred to by Popham
archaeologists as "the Raleigh Gilbert house."). Gilbert was second
in command of the colony and probably a distant relative of George
Popham. He was also the nephew of, and named after, Sir Walter
Raleigh. Indeed, artifacts found at Raleigh Gilbert's house point
toward its occupant as being a man of high status due to the type
and quality of certain objects, like the ones shown here--fragments
from a 17th century, German-made stoneware "Bellarmine" jug.
On Video: Raleigh Gilbert's House (1:18)
17th Century Caulking Tool
This iron caulking tool was discovered by Popham
project archaeologists in an area believed to be "The Storehouse,"
the long building shown on John Hunt's map and identified as such
on it. Ship carpenters used caulking tools like this one to pound
an oil-coated fiber sealant, such as hemp, into the cracks between
planks on a boat's wooden hull to protect it from leaking water.
One of the most interesting aspects of the excavations at Fort St.
George is that the colonists probably built a sailing vessel there,
a small ship called a "pinnace," which would have been the first of
its kind built by English colonists on the shores of America.
Such a ship is seen in the lower portion of the John Hunt map
and was mentioned several times in documents of the period.
On Video: The Storehouse (0:59) WMP
Links of Interest