Professor of Anthropology Julia King and adjunct instructor of anthropology Scott Strickland ’08 are featured along with Chief Anne Richardson of the Rappahannock Tribe in the January/February edition of Archaeology Magazine. The article, “Return to the River,” focuses on their work tracing the history and development of the Rappahannock Indians in early American history. The anthropology department at St. Mary’s College first began studying the Rappahannock River valley’s history in 2016 at the request of the National Park Service Chesapeake Bay Office and the Chesapeake Conservancy. The work was undertaken to provide interpretive support for the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail and led to the Rappahannock Indians’ return to the river when former Senator John Warner and his daughter, Virginia Warner, donated land to the Rappahannock in their ancestral homeland. The survey of the greater river valley has been funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
As the first director of the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory, King was charged with organizing and relocating archaeological collections from across the state to one central location. NEH grants helped preserve and electronically catalog records documenting more than 1-million objects from archaeological sites located throughout the Chesapeake Bay region, making them more broadly accessible to researchers. NEH funding also supported two comparative studies of English, Indigenous, and African culture in the Chesapeake. A consortium of researchers from around the region worked on these projects, contributing and digitizing their archaeological catalogs.
Through this work, archaeologists came to see nuances in interactions between Native Americans and English settlers, as evidenced through objects found in excavated sites. For instance, between 1660 and 1680, the colorful beads Native Americans traded changed from blue and white to black and red, indicating a growing antipathy for the settlers: among Native people, the color black was often closely associated with death. Beyond these insights, the funding resulted in two websites: ChesapeakeArchaeology.org and ColonialEncounters.org. These continue to be used by students and researchers as they explore the region’s history.