Carter's Grove Site CG-8 (44JC647)


Carter’s Grove Site 8—also known as CG-8 (44JC647)—is part of the Martin’s Hundred settlement, located on the James River in James City County, Virginia. The site was probably occupied sometime in the second quarter of the 17th century and abandoned by c. 1650, at a time when the price of tobacco had dropped in Virginia. Its occupants appear to have been at the lower end of the economic scale, in contrast with the Martin’s Hundred residents described by Ivor Noël Hume in his book, Martin’s Hundred (1982).

Martin’s Hundred was originally chartered in 1618 at a size of 20,000 acres. Approximately 140 colonists were living there in 1622. That year, 78 of them were killed in an Indian attack led by Opechancanough, the brother of Powhatan. The survivors were either captured or fled. Only 50 colonists had returned by 1623, and 23 of these individuals were dead of disease within a year. A census or muster taken in 1625 reports only 27 people living there. The census reports that most of these households were well-armed, perhaps reflecting anticipation of another Indian attack.

Although the occupants of CG-8 remain unidentified, the site nonetheless has the potential to reveal information about those Virginia settlers at the lower rungs of society. This provides a useful comparison to those sites occupied by elites that are frequently the subject of archaeological investigation.

Archaeological Investigations

CG-8 was identified in the early 1990s during a Phase I archaeological survey of the Carter’s Grove property. The survey was undertaken by the Department of Archaeological Research at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Phase II investigations were conducted in 1991; as a result, CG-8 was recommended for further study, given that the property on which the site was located was to be conveyed to the local school board. Phase III investigations began in late spring 1991 and were completed in September of that year.

A variety of excavation techniques were used at CG-8 in an effort to collect as much information as possible about the reliability of different recovery methods. All approaches used during the investigations assumed the importance of the plow zone distributions of artifacts and other archaeological materials. These methods included the piece-plotting of individual artifacts observed in the plow zone, the hand excavation of a series of test units of varying size, and the mechanical removal of the remaining plow zone.

A core area centered primarily on the structure and measuring 103.5 square meters was the focus of the piece-plotting effort. As excavators discovered materials through careful troweling, each object’s three-dimensional coordinates were captured electronically using a laser theodolite. Then, 140 50-by-50-cm test units placed approximately two meters apart were excavated and the soil screened through ¼-inch hardware cloth. In addition, 35 random soil samples were collected from the plow zone for chemical analysis.

Eight structural post holes, three pits, and a paling fence ditch were found at the base of the plow zone. Soil excavated from features was screened through ¼-inch hardware cloth, and soil samples were collected.

The three pit features at CG-8 were located on the south side of the dwelling, outside the yard area enclosed by a paling ditch. These features were generally circular in plan with sloping sides, ranging in depth from 8 inches to 32 inches. Edwards (2004) interprets these features as small daub or clay pits, excavated to extract clay for use in the construction and/or repair of wattle-and-daub walls and chimney.

A paling fence ditch originated off the southwest and southeast corners of the dwelling, and extended for approximately 24.1 feet (southwest side) and 27.3 feet (southeast side). The ditch itself ranged from 14 to 16 inches wide. Although the fence originating off the southwest corner terminated before turning, the ditch originating off the southeast corner turned 90 degrees toward the west and continued for approximately 8.2 feet. The ditch ended there, leaving a gap between the two paling fences. Molds for stakes or round wooden logs were observed in the paling ditch.

Evidence for only one building was recovered. This structure, of earthfast construction, measured 24.6 by 16.4 feet, with a lean-to measuring 6.9 by 10.4 feet on its western end. Based on the spacing of the bays formed by the post molds (the western bay measures 13.1 by 16.4 feet; the eastern bay measured 11.5 feet by 16.4 feet), Edwards (2004) suggests that the building was reverse-raised, also known as bent or end-wall assembly. Although no evidence for a hearth was recovered, Edwards believes that the building’s heat source would have been located at the structure’s eastern end.

All of the post holes and molds associated with the building were excavated, and the fill was screened through ¼-inch mesh. Two holes contained no artifacts, as would be expected with a building erected at the site’s initial occupation. The other post holes, however, did contain artifacts. One hole contained two nail fragments, while a fourth contained nail fragments and two pieces of case bottle glass. A fifth post hole contained an unidentified iron fragment and a white clay tobacco pipe bowl fragment. The sixth hole contained two locally-produced ceramic fragments and a terra cotta tobacco pipe stem fragment. Given that the post holes do not show any evidence of repair, these materials appear to have been used and discarded at the site prior to the construction of this building, and suggest at least some occupation of the site beforehand.

In an analysis of the pits excavated at CG-8, Edwards (2004) found that one pit contained almost no terra cotta or locally-produced pipes. Typically, terra cotta or locally-produced pipes are not found in large numbers on sites in the James River drainage occupied in the 1620s. This particular pit (Feature 1152) was subsequently intruded by the paling ditch originating off the building’s southwest corner. Edwards suggests that it is possible that Feature 1152 represents occupation at the site in the 1620s, prior to 1622, while later pits were filled after 1622. Perhaps an earlier structure stood at CG-8, one that has left little in the way of archaeological evidence.


Nearly 8,000 artifacts were recovered during the excavations at CG-8, and approximately 52 percent of them came from plow zone contexts. Interestingly, when Colonial Williamsburg Foundation archaeologists began the effort to piece-plot the plow zone artifacts, unbeknownst to them, they were working directly over the house location. The archaeologists had chosen their area of focus based on artifact densities. At many sites, plow zone artifact densities are often highest outside structures, in surrounding yard areas. At CG-8, high artifacts concentrations appeared within the dwelling. Further, analysis of distributions of cross-mended objects led Edwards (2004) to speculate that, for this situation to occur, the plow zone artifacts at CG-8 must have been more substantially moved by post-depositional plowing than suggested by previous studies. Archaeologists also concluded that evidence for functional variation in yard use was not apparent at CG-8.

Recovered artifacts include ceramics, white and terra cotta tobacco pipes, case bottle glass, nails, brick, daub, oyster shell, and animal bone. Not surprisingly, far more of the fragile case bottle fragments were recovered from features than from the plow zone.

Ceramics include locally-produced and European coarse wares, tin-glazed earthenwares, and stonewares. Domestic pottery accounts for approximately 34 percent of the total ceramic assemblage. Eighteen individual vessels were identified at CG-8, including one bottle, two bottle/jugs, three mugs, one dish, one dish/platter, two bowls, one pan, two storage jars, one pipkin, one flatware, and three hollowwares. Ware types include Frechen stoneware, Mediterranean sgraffitto slipware, North Italian slipware, North Devon coarse earthenware, tin-glazed earthenware, and other unidentified earthenware types.

Both white imported and terra cotta locally-produced tobacco pipes were recovered from CG-8. Only 66 white clay pipe fragments had measurable stem bores. The distribution of stem bore diameters suggests that the site was likely occupied sometime between 1620 and 1650; the predominance of stem bores with diameters of 8/64 inches suggests a relatively short occupation.

Twenty-nine terra cotta pipes were recovered from CG-8, with the overwhelming majority (84.5 percent) coming from plow zone contexts. At least some of these pipes appear to have been molded; a few are described as having a marbleized body.

In his report on the excavations at CG-8, Edwards (2004) makes an impressive attempt at comparing the materials recovered from this site with artifacts found at other contemporary sites located on the Martin’s Hundred tract. His effort was especially challenging because those other sites, while excavated, have not been reported in detail. Perhaps even more problematic is the lack of plow zone data from these other sites. Finally, the small sample sizes are also problematic (CG-8 yielding only 18 vessels). Nonetheless, Edwards was able to uncover some important variations within the distributions of artifacts at these sites. The sites include what may have been the administrative center of the Martin’s Hundred plantation (Site A), a smaller domestic site nonetheless yielding a rich assemblage of materials (Site B), and a small, “enigmatic” site (Site D) that yielded few artifacts (Noël Hume 1982).

The diversity of vessel forms recovered from Sites A and B is far greater than that recovered from CG-8 (22 forms from Site A, 25 from Site B, 13 from Site D, and 10 from CG-8). On the other hand, Sites A and B yielded 118 and 194 vessels, respectively, while CG-8 had a mere 18 vessels (Site D contained a total of 23 vessels). The diversity of forms at CG-8 is more striking given the sample sizes at the four sites. Far greater percentages of local coarsewares were recovered from Sites A, B, and D than from CG-8. On the other hand, far greater percentages of both European lead-glazed coarse earthenwares, Rhenish stonewares, and tin-glazed earthenwares were recovered from CG-8.

CG-8 contained the lowest proportion of vessels used for food preparation and storage, and the highest percentage of bottles (used for storing liquids).


Edwards, Andrew C. 2004. Archaeology of a Seventeenth-Century Houselot at Martin’s Hundred, Virginia. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Williamsburg, Virginia.

Noël Hume, Ivor. 1982. Martin’s Hundred. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.

Further Information on the Collection

The 44JC647 collection is owned by The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. For more information about the collection and collection access, contact curator Kelly Ladd-Kostro at 757-220-7332; email

Cite this Record

Carter's Grove Site CG-8 (44JC647). ( tDAR id: 6059) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8T43VHS

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Temporal Coverage

Calendar Date: 1620 to 1650

Spatial Coverage

min long: -77.498; min lat: 36.633 ; max long: -75.41; max lat: 39.368 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Field Director(s): Andrew Edwards

Resources Inside this Project (Viewing 1-20 of 20)

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  1. Carter’s Grove CG-8 (44JC647): Artifact Distributions, Bone and Shell (2004)
  2. Carter’s Grove CG-8 (44JC647): Artifact Distributions, Brick (2004)
  3. Carter’s Grove CG-8 (44JC647): Artifact Distributions, Case Bottles (2004)
  4. Carter’s Grove CG-8 (44JC647): Artifact Distributions, Domestic Material (2004)
  5. Carter’s Grove CG-8 (44JC647): Artifact Distributions, European Ceramics (2004)
  6. Carter’s Grove CG-8 (44JC647): Artifact Distributions, Terra Cotta Pipes (2004)
  7. Carter’s Grove CG-8 (44JC647): Artifact Distributions, Tin-Glazed Earthenware (2004)
  8. Carter’s Grove CG-8 (44JC647): Artifact Distributions, Unidentified Earthenware (2004)
  9. Carter’s Grove CG-8 (44JC647): Artifact Distributions, White Clay Tobacco Pipes (2004)
  10. Carter’s Grove CG-8 (44JC647): Artifact Distributions, Window Glass (2004)
  11. Carter’s Grove CG-8 (44JC647): Bartmann Jug (2004)
  12. Carter’s Grove CG-8 (44JC647): Burned Nails (2004)
  13. Carter’s Grove CG-8 (44JC647): Ceramics (2004)
  14. Carter’s Grove CG-8 (44JC647): Domestic Pipes (2004)
  15. Carter’s Grove CG-8 (44JC647): General Site Map (2004)
  16. Carter’s Grove CG-8 (44JC647): Imported Pipes (2004)
  17. Carter’s Grove CG-8 (44JC647): Lead Shot (2004)
  18. Carter’s Grove CG-8 (44JC647): Maize (2004)
  19. Carter’s Grove CG-8 (44JC647): Seeds (2004)
  20. Carter’s Grove CG-8 (44JC647): Tin-glazed Tankard (2004)