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 (1969). The site was occupied by Virginia Indians from c. 1650 until c. 1690, and was part of a much larger complex of Native American settlement that occurred 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 The Machotick Indians were first noted in historical documents in 1652, when a land grant describes a property boundary as “upper Mattchtoqs town.”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 began an intensive program of excavation at the site, which they initially believed measured no more than 30 by 50 feet. Fifty-five contiguous 5-by-5-foot squares were excavated by volunteers over a series of weekends. The overlying plow zone appears to have been removed in two levels and was screened through ¼-inch hardware cloth. MacCord reports that “all materials were collected, except oyster shells, of which only a representative sample was saved. All bones, stones, and suspected artifacts were saved.”
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 three 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 this 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 treated as a single assemblage and not by stratigraphic association. Further, no detailed catalog survives for the MacCord/Carter excavations. Since the material was recovered by plow zone unit, it was re-cataloged in a manner linking artifacts with the specific excavation strata from which they were recovered. More than thirty years have elapsed, however, since the material was excavated, and a small percentage of the collection was either missing or on loan elsewhere. The database for the Camden material found on this web site, it is important to note, represents our re-cataloging of the material, and the totals differ slightly from those reported in MacCord (1969).
The overwhelming majority of artifacts found in the Camden assemblage consisted of Indian-made pottery (more than 9,000 sherds). Most of these ceramics are Potomac Creek wares (plain and cord-marked), although small amounts of other ware types, including Camden, were also recovered. Other artifacts of Indian manufacture include two shell beads, eight projectile points, two stone blades, and terra cotta tobacco pipes. Other clay or ceramic artifacts include a spoon or ladle, miniature “cups,” and several amorphous fragments that MacCord believes represent waste material from ceramic manufacture.
Lithic debitage was recovered during the excavations and reported in MacCord (1969), but these materials were unavailable for reexamination. Five hundred ten flakes of quartz, greenstone, chert, quartzite, argillite, and rhyolite were recovered. 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 very well be the case that much of this debitage is associated with the later occupation and may represent materials modified during the historic period.
Artifacts of European manufacture were found in small but significant numbers at the site. These materials included nine gunflints, a glass triangular projectile point, a glass bead, 11 case bottle fragments, five round wine bottle fragments, ceramics, tobacco pipes (one of local manufacture in a European form), a white clay bead, and metal artifacts. Tobacco pipe stem bore diameters, bowl forms, and maker’s marks point to an occupation in the second half of the 17th century.
European ceramics were few in number at Camden. Most notable was a Bartmann-style Rhenish brown stoneware jug, broken into 38 sherds. There were also two sherds 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 sherd appeared 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, not 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.
Metal artifacts recovered from the Camden Site include iron nails and nail fragments. MacCord organized the 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.
Other iron objects include five knife blades, two files, a fragment of a strap hinge, five small 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. One of these fragments MacCord interprets 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.
MacCord reports that the recovered animal bones from Camden included only wild species, not domestic animals.
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.
This Resource is Part of the Following Collections
Cite this Record
Camden (44CE3). ( tDAR id: 6066) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8BC410G
Historic Native American
Calendar Date: 1650 to 1690
min long: -77.498; min lat: 36.633 ; max long: -75.41; max lat: 39.368 ;
Individual & Institutional Roles
Project Director(s): Howard MacCord