Exhibit Brings New Finds Into Public View
January 14, 2013
A new exhibit case at the Nathalie P. and Alan M. Voorhees Archaearium makes it possible for an artifact to come out of the ground one day and be on display for visitors the next.
The New Finds case that debuted Thanksgiving weekend provides an even stronger tie between the ongoing archaeological work at James Fort and the archaeology museum built on the west end of Jamestown Island in 2006. The case was funded through a generous grant from James City County.
"We know that people want to see recent finds, especially the ones that we may profile in our online dig updates," said Jamestown Rediscovery Senior Archaeological Curator Bly Straube. "For us, the case provides a wonderful solution for quick installations of all sizes of artifacts."
The case will be used for short-term exhibits of new finds, which means that sometimes objects will be displayed before they've even gone through the conservation process, Straube said. Fiberoptic LED lights mean they produce no heat inside the case that might damage an artifact (and the LED lights cost only $5 a year to light).
The case puts a premium on flexibility. It can be arranged to display artifacts in three separate spaces or two spaces that feature a larger vertical or large horizontal arrangement. The LED lights swivel and can be dimmed to suit the artifact, said Jamestown Rediscovery Senior Conservator Michael Lavin.
Visitors can also watch the process of discovery on a television monitor mounted over the New Discoveries case.
The first objects to be displayed are the lower leaf of an ivory pocket sundial known as a diptych dial, made in Nuremberg, Germany, and a bone fragment decorated with the figure of a soldier carrying a sword.
"These two stood out as the significant finds of this season," Straube said. "On the special tours of the vault that I gave, the people really responded to these two."
The sundial bears the name of Hans Miller, who is known to have been crafting these objects in the early 17th century. In May the dial came out of fill above a cellar from the early James Fort period (1607-1610). It is similar to one recovered in 1998 from the ca. 1610 "Factory" structure just outside the eastern palisade of James Fort. Such an instrument may have been in common use in the 17th century among English gentlemen, but they are rare archaeological finds.
Such dials have two leaves like a book, hinged together on one end so the leaves open out to form a right angle. A compass in the lower leaf oriented the user to the North. Strung between the upper and lower leaves is a "pole string" or gnomon that casts a shadow on the hour lines engraved around the compass, indicating the hour of the day.
In August the cellar fill yielded the bone fragment that has some inletting on the back to adhere this piece of bone into a larger object. Straube's research has found an example of a similar figure inlaid into an early17th-century German powder flask. Or the James Fort piece may have fit onto the stock of a gentleman's firearm. The engraved figure is in the style of drawings of soldiers by Dutch artist Jacob De Gehyn in the same period.
Historic Jamestowne is jointly administered by the National Park Service and The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation (on behalf of Preservation Virginia) and preserves the original site of the first permanent English settlement in the New World. Preservation Virginia and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation formed a new collaboration in the fall of 2010 with the goal of connecting the histories of Jamestown and Williamsburg through compelling stories of discovery, diversity and democracy. This initiative brings together experts from Historic Jamestowne and Colonial Williamsburg to enhance public archaeology and create a broader, more cohesive guest experience.
Visitors to Historic Jamestowne share the moment of discovery with archaeologists and witness archaeology in action at the 1607 James Fort excavation April-October; learn about the Jamestown Rediscovery excavation at the Nathalie P. and Alan M. Voorhees Archaearium, the site's archaeology museum; tour the original 17th-century church tower and reconstructed 17th-century Jamestown Memorial Church; and take a walking tour with a Park Ranger through the New Towne area along the scenic James River. For further information, visit www.HistoricJamestowne.org or call (757) 229-4997 or (757) 898-2410.