The site on which the archaeologists were digging was an old Virginia farm, located just above the York River.
Deep in the ground they have unearthed what they are confident is Werowocomoco, the principal village of the Indian chieftain Powhatan, reports The Baltimore Sun. A powerful tribal leader, he controlled the Virginia Tidewater area when the English established the Jamestown colony in 1607.
Powhatan had a daughter. Her name was Pocahontas.
The story of Pocahontas is the stuff of American legend. It was she who supposedly intervened with her powerful father and pleaded with him to spare the life of Capt. John Smith, Jamestown's military leader. As romantic and exciting as the tale may be, it could be more myth than reality, according to historians. Since Smith never mentioned the incident until 1624 and all the witnesses had long since died by then, it's thought he may have invented the story to help sell his memoirs.
But at least now we know that the village of Werowocomoco (pronounced weh-ro-wuh-KO-muh-ko) existed. "While the association of Werowocomoco with Jamestown is important, it really represents far more--literally, the culmination of over 15,000 years of Native Americans living in what we today call Virginia," E. Randolph Turner III, regional director of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, told The Baltimore Sun.
The English were living at Jamestown for a full eight months before they even encountered Powhatan. It was late in 1607 and Capt. Smith and his crew were exploring the Chickahominy River when they met an Indian hunting party that was loyal to Powhatan. The Englishmen were promptly marched to the village of Werowocomoco, which means "King's House."
Although it was the seat of Powhatan's military and political power over 25,000 Indians, the village was not particularly impressive. It was small, housing less than 200 residents who lived in huts made of reed or bark mats that were laid over frames of bent saplings, reports The Baltimore Sun. But Smith was impressed. Powhatan, who had about 100 wives during his lifetime, had a dozen with him there. Many of his children were also in the village, including Pocahontas. Smith wrote in his memoir that when he met the chief he was "proudly lying upon a bedstead a foot high, upon 10 or 12 mats, richly hung with many chains of great pearls about his neck, and covered with a great covering of [raccoon] pelts."
Preliminary excavations of the site, located about 16 miles north of Jamestown, have been so promising that Turner says there is "convincing evidence that we have indeed found the village." So far, they've uncovered numerous Indian and European artifacts that are consistent with a substantial village from the period, notes The Sun. Among the fascinating finds are small, elongated blue beads that were used by the English in trading with the Indians.
This summer, more than 20 professional and student archaeologists will dig on the property. The group is working cooperatively with five of the eight Indian tribes recognized by the state of Virginia.