Jamestown finds include pendant depicting Indian

By Steve Szkotak
Richmond Virginia (AP) 8-08

A tiny, paper-thin pendant with a rare depiction of a Virginia Indian is among four significant archaeological discoveries this summer at Jamestown, America’s first permanent English settlement.

The “corn-flake” fragile copper relief is “tremendously significant” because there are so few renderings of Powhatan Indians, said William Kelso, director of archaeology at Historic Jamestowne.

“The English had an attitude that these people were inferior folks and would have to be Christianized and made into real people,” Kelso said Monday in a telephone interview. 


Kelso speculated the image could be that of Chief Powhatan, father of Pocahontas and leader of the Powhatan Nation. The nation had a complicated, often violent relationship with the English who settled the swampy outpost on the James River in 1607.

“He looks stately, like a major character,” Kelso said of the likeness on the pendant.

The other three finds announced are:

– A gold ring depicting a skull with the initials “CL” and the Latin legend Memento Mori – “remember thy death.” Bly Straube, Historic Jamestown’s senior curator, said the initials likely belong to Capt. Christopher Lawne, a member of the first Virginia General Assembly. He arrived at Jamestown in April 1619, 12 years after the first settlers arrived.

“The ring would have been very expensive and would have been worn by a person of significant wealth and stature,” Straube said in a release.

– A brass medallion that commemorates the induction of Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange, into the English order of Knights of the Garter in 1612.

– A Brass lion, made in Nuremberg, Germany, which was used as a counterweight to a coin scale.

Kelso said the Indian pendant is one of only three depictions of Powhatans, other than the drawings of John White, the governor of the disastrous first attempt at a permanent English settlement in the Americas in Roanoke, N.C.

Archaeologists speculate that the pendant could have been an early version of an identification tag.

“The English gave it to them so the English knew who came to them was official,” Kelso said. In return, Powhatan gave the English beads as their official ID.

On the Net:

Historic Jamestowne: http://www.historicjamestowne.org