Ready to explore

This morning (7/8/16) we got up headed to Jamestowne.  We decided to do the history in order from Jamestowne to Williamsburg to Yorktown.  My nephew (6) wanted to dress up, and we had brought both an Indian costume and a John Smith costume, so we took them along for him to wear in the different areas.  Turns out, it was a great idea!

We bought our tickets and planned to head into the Indian village. One thing that has changed since previous trips is they no longer have the tour guides that lead you through each section, or at least not on a regular schedule.  You pretty much explore on your own and the guides are in the different areas.  I missed the added information of taking a tour.

The packed canoe

There is a special exhibition called “Bartering for a Continent,” which will be available until December 10, 2016.    It is a fun experience, which I recommend.   You begin in the exhibition area (Second floor of the visitor center). Corban was given a card with 5 challenges to complete.  He had to pack a canoe with provisions, put a puzzle together to learn Native American words, find another trading animal than a deer, figure an exchange rate for buckskin (why we call dollars “bucks”), and make a peace medal rubbing in foil.  After completing all the challenges, he was sent to the Indian village to get something to trade.

Grinding corn

In the Indian village, we received a small bag of corn, which we were told was to trade in the fort, not feed to the chickens (The temptation is great, and we met a girl who had already fed her “trade goods” to the them). In addition to the bartering challenge, the village still offers a variety of activities and interpreters to speak to kids. Corban got to grind corn, scrape skins, explore houses, see fish traps, rope, and pottery being made, and play Native American children’s games.

Learning about weaponry

One of the areas we especially enjoyed  was talking to the lady at the weapons place.  I asked her what had made her decide to work here. She said growing up, she had found artifacts in her back yard.  She’d always loved history, but as she was the first generation to go to college, she had pursued a medical career.  Eventually, she also added archaeologically, and fell in love with it.  Since that doesn’t pay the bills, she works here where she gets to be around history and still talk about it.

She shared that Native American society is matriarchal.  Wives built their house by  their mother-in-law’s.  She also explained that, while Indian tools work well, they took a long time to make.  This explains why the Powhatan trade for tools–not because they need them but for bragging rights.

From the Indian Village, we went out to the ships to climb aboard. We ate our lunch and headed to the fort.

Corban holding a “John Smith” sword

At the fort, we first stopped at the armory. Since Corban was dressed as Captain John Smith, the man there told him he needed one thing to complete his outfit–the Captain John Smith sword, which he let Corban hold.  He explained the gun racks in the armory. The leaders wanted the men to keep their weapons in a rack.  They didn’t want soldiers carrying their guns around because then they couldn’t get to them quickly in case of an attack.  Additionally, each man had his own place in the rack.  Unlike later years, guns at this time were unique, so you had to have your own so it would match your musket balls and allow you to actually fire.  He explained that in a battle, soldiers would hold several musket balls in their cheeks for quicker loading.  In battle, he explained, the corporals marked the position of the soldiers while the Sergeant gave the battle orders. The Commanding officer watched the enemy, not the soldiers.  He changed tactics based on position of enemy.  The man at the armory was only able to talk to us for a few minutes as he was the one to fire the musket, which occurs on a quarter til and a quarter after each hour.  But, he let Corban be the commanding officer since he was dressed the part.  That meant he got to call out the commands of “Prepare your piece, present your piece, and fire.”  He thoroughly enjoyed that!

Helping the joiner

A final person we got to meet was the joiner. As the name suggests, this is the man who makes joints consisting of two pieces of wood carved so one has a tab and the other has a slot.  These joints are connected by a simple peg passing through each. Because the joints are constructed with green wood, when the wood swells, the pegs are stuck so the wooden pieces will not come apart.  Since the joiner worked by the river, and his pieces are brought in, he numbers each piece for construction on shore.  The largest house in original Jamestowne had 57 joints. Interestingly enough, 75% of world today still uses this same joint.

Considering a trade

Finally, it was time to make our trade.  We took the corn we had been given at the Indian village and went to meet with the clerk.  He was explaining how things were traded.  We presented our goods, and he proceeded to make a series of offers.  Finally, we settled on a trade of our bag of corn for a glass bead bracelet.  It was a fun experience for kids to see the way bartering works and have a souvenir as well.

All in all, we had an excellent time, despite the changes, and are looking forward to much more fun to come!