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Site possibly Powhatan's village

By Associated Press,
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 7, 2003

GLOUCESTER, Va. - A woman's habit of finding pottery shards and arrowheads on her farm has led to the discovery of what archaeologists believe was the village of the powerful Indian chief Powhatan, the father of Pocahontas.

Capt. John Smith, leader of the 17th century English colony at Jamestown, would have met Powhatan on the 50-acre site. It is also where Pocahontas was said to have begged her father to spare Smith's life, though historians question the veracity of Smith's tale.

Preliminary studies of the site on Purton Bay, overlooking the York River, have turned up American Indian and European artifacts from a large early colonial settlement, researchers announced Tuesday at a news conference on the farm.

Those artifacts, plus descriptions by Smith and other Jamestown colonists, led archaeologists to hypothesize that the farm was the site of Werowocomoco, the central village of Powhatan's chiefdom. Powhatan was ruler of about 15,000 people from tribes in coastal Virginia.

"We believe we have sufficient evidence to confirm that the property is indeed the village of Werowocomoco," said Randolph Turner, director of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources' Portsmouth Regional Office.

When Lynn and Bob Ripley bought the 300-acre farm in 1996, they knew there was speculation that the village had been there. But they did not take it seriously because other spots also were said to have been the site of the village, Lynn Ripley said.

Werowocomoco was about 15 miles from Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America, founded in 1607.

This summer, the College of William and Mary and the historic resources department will do more archaeological research on the farm to look for evidence of homes and to find out more about the history of the site.

Turner said the site is important because Powhatan's chiefdom was one of the most complex political entities in eastern America during the early 1600s.

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