Pocahontas Site to Be Preserved for Eternity

It may be Virginia land, but it was once Werowocomoco

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Jun 18, 2013 9:30 AM CDT

(Newser) – A farm field overlooking the York River in Tidewater Virginia is believed to be where Pocahontas interceded with her powerful father Powhatan to rescue English Capt. John Smith from death. But the real story—according to many Virginia Indians, historians, and archaeologists—is that this land was the center of a complex, sprawling empire ruled by Powhatan long before the first permanent English settlement in America was founded in 1607. It was called Werowocomoco, which roughly translates to a "place of chiefs," and 57 privately owned acres believed to once be a part of it will be preserved forever under an agreement years in the making and to be officially announced Friday.

Only a fraction of Werowocomoco has been explored, perhaps just 2%. After decades of research, archaeologists used the writings of Smith and others, ancient maps, and detective work to conclude with near-certainty that this was Powhatan's seat of power about 15 miles from Jamestown. But the discovery of Werowocomoco can be credited to a purebred dog belonging to the land's owners: Lynn Ripley would remove debris that could cut her dog's paws, and found arrowheads, spear tips, pipe stems, and pottery shards. The clincher was the discovery of copper, which was valued by the Indians as gold is today. "I am absolutely convinced this is Werowocomoco," says a retired state archaeologist whose hunt for the empire dates to the 1970s. "It makes no sense for it to be anywhere else."

Martin Gallivan, College of William professor, right, gestures as Pamunkey Indian Jeff Brown, left, and  Randolph Turner, retired state archaeologist, center listen during a tour of a farm field overlooking the York River in  Gloucester, Va., Monday, June 17, 2013.
Martin Gallivan, College of William professor, right, gestures as Pamunkey Indian Jeff Brown, left, and Randolph Turner, retired state archaeologist, center listen during a tour of a farm field overlooking...   (Steve Helber)
This 2003 photo provided by the Werowocomoco Research Group shows a site under excavation.
This 2003 photo provided by the Werowocomoco Research Group shows a site under excavation.   ((AP Photo/Werowocomoco Research Group))
Pocahontas saves Captain John Smith, one of the founders of Jamestown, Virginia, from being clubbed to death.
Pocahontas saves Captain John Smith, one of the founders of Jamestown, Virginia, from being clubbed to death.   (Wikimedia Commons)
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