The Camden archaeological site (44CE3) is located on the south side of
the Rappahannock River approximately 2.5 miles east of Port Royal in Caroline
County, Virginia. It was excavated in the 1960s under the supervision
of Howard A. MacCord and Dr. L. Clyde Carter (MacCord 1969). The site was occupied by Virginia Indians
from ca. 1650 until ca. 1690, and was part of a much larger complex of Native
American settlement in this area during the 17th century.
Twenty sites, including 44CE3, are located in an approximately 54-acre
agricultural field and are believed to “represent individual components
of a large village [or town] of internally dispersed plan” (Hodges 1986:4).
These sites represent a span of occupation beginning in the mid-17th century
and continuing into the early 18th century.
During the mid-17th century, the Virginia government “set aside several
tracts of land along the Rappahannock River as preserves for native peoples
in an effort to lessen tensions between the Indians and planters who were
moving into the Indians’ lands in increasing numbers” (Hodges 1986:5).
Nanzattico and Portobago Indians were living in the area, although their
relationship is not precisely known.
MacCord argues that the individual or family living at the Camden Site
was probably the king of the Machotick Indians, based on a silver medal
recovered very early in the excavations and described in more detail below.
The Machotick Indians were first noted in historical documents in 1652,
when a land grant describes a property boundary as “upper Mattchtoqs town.”
A number of documents produced after this date refer to Machotick town
or path, with the last reference in 1669, when the Machoticks are listed
in the Indian census jointly with the Nanzattico Indians (MacCord 1969:32).
Regardless of the precise identification of the people living at 44CE3,
the occupants were members of Virginia’s Indian population. The silver
medals or badges recovered from the site, along with the large numbers
of Potomac Creek ceramic sherds and other archaeological evidence, strongly
supports Indian occupation of this site.
The Camden Site was first discovered in 1964, when a property owner reported the recovery
of materials from the site's surface. That fall, MacCord and Dr. L. Clyde Carter of Mary
Washington College (now the University of Mary Washington) began an intensive program of excavation
at the site, which they initially believed measured no more than 30 by 50 feet. According to the
report, 55 contiguous 5-by-5-foot squares were excavated by volunteers over a series of weekends.
MacCord's published map, however, shows only 50 units plus one-half unit, and only 50 units plus
the half unit are included in the database. Three of these units either yielded no artifacts; if
artifacts were recovered from these units, they were not available for re-cataloging.
MacCord's grid was reconstructed for the purposes of this project using his published map. A new set of
grid coordinates was imposed on his map, in part because MacCord did not a show a grid and in part because
he used both negative and positive alphanumeric designations for the units.
The overlying plow zone appears to have been removed in two levels at Camden and was screened through
¼-inch hardware cloth. MacCord described the first level as a "black, humus filled sand" about six inches
in depth and "which contained most of the cultural material." The second level averaged less than six
inches in depth, contained significantly less cultural material, and was likely a transitional level
between the darker top of the plow zone and the yellow sandy subsoil. MacCord reported that "all materials
were collected, except oyster shells, of which only a representative sample was saved. All bones, stones,
and suspected artifacts were saved." As noted below, some of these materials are now missing from the
collection. For the purposes of this database, the two levels of plow zone have been combined into one
level per unit to make it easier for analysis. The original provenience system has been preserved,
however, and is available upon request.
Only two features were identified at the base of the plow zone units. Feature 1 was an oval
"refuse pit," measuring 3.3-by-2.5 feet. Feature 2 was a small burned area measuring approximately
two feet in diameter. The fill was "lens-like" in section, with a depth of 3 inches at the center.
In 1983 and 1984, archaeologists from the Virginia Division of Landmarks
undertook a survey of the entire Camden farm, an area measuring approximately
1430 acres (Hodges 1986). Eighty-two previously unidentified archaeological
sites were recorded, bringing to 90 the total number of sites on the Camden
tract. None of the 19 additional late 17th-century Indian sites identified
has been systematically tested.
As part of an earlier project, the artifacts recovered during the MacCord and Carter
excavations were reexamined and re-cataloged by staff from the Maryland Archaeological
Conservation Laboratory. MacCord reported in his original (1969) report that more than
10,000 artifacts were recovered from Camden. Although this report provides important
descriptive information about the artifacts, the materials are for the most part treated
as a single assemblage and not by stratigraphic association. Further, no detailed catalog
survives for the MacCord/Carter excavations. More than forty years have elapsed since the
material was excavated, and a small percentage of the collection is either missing or on
loan elsewhere and unavailable for study. It is important to note, then, that the database
for the Camden material found on this web site represents a re-cataloging of the available
material along with an effort to add artifacts now unavailable for examination, and the totals
therefore differ slightly from those reported in MacCord (1969). This does not mean the
collection is unusable but that researchers should be aware of the problems.
The overwhelming majority of artifacts found in the Camden assemblage consist of Indian-made
ceramics (n=7,747). Most of the ceramics are grit-tempered Potomac Creek wares (plain and cord-marked,
about evenly distributed; n=7,151), although a small amount of temperless Camden (n=85) fragments were
also recovered. Other clay or ceramic artifacts include a spoon or ladle, miniature "cups,"
and several amorphous fragments that MacCord believed represent waste material from
European ceramics were, not surprisingly, few in number at Camden. Most notable was a
Bartman-style Rhenish brown stoneware jug broken into 38 sherds. There are also two
fragments from a Rhenish blue and gray stoneware mug. The 16 tin-glazed earthenware
sherds from the site came mostly from small bowls, although one may have been from a
galley pot and one rim fragment appears to be part of a small plate. Those sherds which
retained glaze were plain or decorated with blue bands. Several sherds were burned. Six
pieces of green lead-glazed red coarse earthenware were recovered. Some appeared to be
from a mug or small jug. It is evident that most of the European ceramics at Camden were
table forms traditionally used for serving food and not for food preparation or storage. Whether the
Indian inhabitants at Camden followed this practice is unknown, but it does suggest possibly
different roles for European and Native ceramics at the site.
Tobacco pipe fragments numbered 320, with 25 white clay tobacco pipes and 295 red clay tobacco pipes.
Many of the red tobacco pipe fragments are rouletted with a range of designs. Among the white pipes,
one contains maker's mark initials "SV" on its stem. A pewter tobacco pipe bowl was also recovered
from the site.
Lithic artifacts were recovered from Camden, but many of these materials, especially flakes and
other forms of debitage, have been lost, discarded, or otherwise removed from the collection.
Five hundred ten flakes of quartz, greenstone, chert, quartzite, argillite, and rhyolite are
listed in the 1969 site report. MacCord notes that "some of the chert chips are the same material
as that from which gun-flints were made." Presumably, this chert is European flint. He argues that
"some of the chips pertain to earlier occupations," which is likely given that all but two of the
projectile points are Archaic or Early Woodland in date. However, since the overwhelming majority
of Indian artifacts are Potomac Creek wares—a Late Woodland/Historic period ceramic—it may be
the case that much of this debitage is associated with the later occupation and may represent
materials modified during the historic period.
One of the most interesting projectile points recovered from the site is made not of
stone but of glass. This point, which is in the collection of the Virginia Historical
Society, is one of the few glass projectile points known for the entire Chesapeake region.
A large number of metal artifacts were recovered from Camden. MacCord organized the iron nails
into four types, including five large spikes, 30 nails measuring 2¼ to 3¼ inches in length,
38 nails measuring 1½ to 2 inches long, and nine nails less than 1½ inches in length. Sixteen
nails had been clinched, suggesting that they had been used to secure boards, with the extruding
nail ends bent over. MacCord (1969:11) suggests that the distribution of the nails in the plow zone
"shows the rough dimensions of the original house or cabin," although no subsurface post holes or
molds were observed within the limits of excavation (MacCord's interpretation of a European-style
house may be based in part on Augustine Herman's Map of Maryland and Virginia, which shows colonial
houses in this area, but this interpretation should be considered provisional without further
testing and used with caution). It is also possible (and probably more likely) that at least some
of these nails, given their size, were used in the construction of wooden boxes in which goods were
transported to and from the site.
Other iron objects include five knife blades, two files, a fragment of a strap hinge, five small chain links,
unidentified fragments MacCord believes are part of a door latching system, a buckle, three "loops," and
numerous small scraps of heavy iron. Two iron gun parts, probably pieces of a snaphaunce, were also recovered.
An English copper farthing, a copper alloy buckle, two copper alloy fragments of possible furniture hardware, and a
number of copper fragments with evidence of having been worked were also recovered. MacCord interprets two of these
fragments as a bracelet.
One of the most interesting artifacts recovered during the MacCord and Carter excavations was a silver medal
or pendant with an especially worn perforation, suggesting the item had been worn for a considerable length of
time. On one side are floral designs and the words, "Ye King of;" on the other side are additional engravings
and the word "Machotick." The medal is similar to one in the collections of the Virginia Historical Society and
recovered from the Camden property in 1832. That medal refers to the king of "Patomeck," and the perforation shows
almost no wear. Initially, the word "Patomeck" was misspelled, without the "e," which was inserted after the word
had been engraved.
MacCord had both medals examined by specialists who concluded that the silver was not sterling, but used instead
for the production of coins. The engravings on both medals are of relatively poor quality, and it is likely that
the medals were engraved by two different people.
A 1662 Virginia law required that "badges (vizt) silver plates and copper plates with the name of the town graved
upon them, be given to all adjacent kings within our protection." These badges would allow for unhindered passage
when the Indians came into areas settled predominantly by the Virginia English. The 1677 Treaty of Middle Plantation
refers to the presentation of 20 badges to Indian kings.
Other artifacts in the collection include nine gunflints, a glass bead, 11 case bottle fragments, and five round wine bottle fragments.
MacCord reports that the recovered animal bones from Camden included only wild species, not domestic animals. Faunal
materials were not, however, available for reanalysis.
Galke, Laura J. 2004. Perspectives on the Use of European Material Culture at Two Mid-to-Late
1th-Century Native American Sites in the Chesapeake. North American Archaeologist 25(1):91-113.
Hodges, Mary Ellen N. 1986. Archaeological Addendum
to the Camden National Historic Landmark, Caroline County, Virginia.
Manuscript on file, Virginia Department of Historic Resources, Richmond.
MacCord, Howard A. Sr. 1969. Camden: A Postcontact
Indian Site in Caroline County. Quarterly Bulletin of the Archeological
Society of Virginia 24(1):1-55.
Further Information on the Collection
The Camden archaeological collection is owned by the the State of Virginia
and curated by the Department of Historic Resources in Richmond. For more
information about the collection and collection access, contact Dee DeRoche
at 804-367-2323 ext 134; email Dee.DeRoche@dhr.virginia.gov.
What You Need to Know
MacCord's and Carter's system of excavation was both forward thinking and yet did not anticipate the future use of digital
technologies. The use of 5-by-5-foot units and ¼-inch screening was virtually unprecedented for historic period sites and would
remain so for decades.
That said, the excavators used a system that assigned positive and negative alphanumeric numbers to units. For example,
1B and –1B were used to identify two different units on the same north line. The grid has been reconfigured for this
project and carefully checked to insure that this database represents units as MacCord and Carter organized them. In
addition, some materials are missing from the collection and other items have lost their provenience association.
MacCord (1969) reported finding hundreds of lithic artifacts at Camden but these materials have since become separated
from the colletion and are now missing. As a result, these artifacts are not found in the database and researchers are urged to
use caution when evaluating the lithic material collection at the site.
To Download Data
Data and a variety of other resources from this site are available for download. To download data,
please go to the Downloads page.