Camden (44CE3)

Introduction

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 The Machotick Indians were first noted in historical documents in 1652, when a land grant describes a property boundary as “upper Mattchtoqs town.”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.

Archaeological Investigations

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.

Artifacts

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 ceramic manufacture.

Bartman jug.

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.

Glass point.

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.

Medal found in MacCord/Carter excavations.
Medal recovered in 1832.

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.

References

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.

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