For thousands of years before Englishmen explored and renamed the Chesapeake environs, people lived all around the Bay watershed, including at a sacred site called Werowocomoco on the north side of the York River. In 1973, Randolph Turner, then a graduate student, began looking for Powhatan's principal residence, as described by English adventurer, Captain John Smith. Although Turner suspected the location, it wasn't until 2001 that he gained access to the property and confirmed Werowocomoco was the principal residence of Powhatan from 1607 to 1609. The site served as the capital of the Powhatan chiefdom at that time and was where Powhatan and Captain John Smith first met in December 1607.
Turner, now retired from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (VDHR) and a Williamsburg resident, will describe his odyssey and subsequent archaeological findings at the June 27 meeting of the Historic Triangle Chapter of the Archeological Society of Virginia. His presentation, Searching for Powhatan at Werowocomoco, will highlight the monthly meeting of the local ASV chapter, to be held at 7 p.m. in the Community Room at Riverside Doctors' Hospital Williamsburg, 1500 Commonwealth Avenue.
In 2002, Turner and others established the Werowocomoco Research Group, devoted to archaeological excavations at Werowocomoco in Gloucester County, and he remains an active member. The Werowocomoco Research Group is a partnership between the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, the College of William and Mary, and the Virginia Indian community. A decade of archaeological investigations at Werowocomoco is summarized in the research group's 2015 Virginia Indians at Werowocomoco: A National Park Handbook, a publication also documenting the site's transfer to the National Park Service as a new National Park.
Turner has written over 50 articles related to Virginia archaeology and ethnohistory in addition to co-authoring Before and After Jamestown: Virginia's Powhatans and Their Predecessors with Helen Rountree in 2002. From 1979 through 2010 he was employed with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources as Senior Prehistoric Archaeologist, serving for fifteen years before retirement as director of the department's regional office for eastern Virginia located in Newport News. He has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in anthropology and archaeology at Penn State, Emory and Henry College, and the College of William and Mary. Turner received a B.A in Anthropology from the University of Virginia in 1970 followed by a M.A. in anthropology from the Pennsylvania State University in 1972 and a Ph.D. in anthropology from the Pennsylvania State University in 1976. Both his M.A. thesis and Ph.D. dissertation focused on Virginia Coastal Plain archaeology and the Powhatans.
Area archaeology professionals and enthusiasts are invited to join the Historic Triangle Chapter of the Archeology Society of Virginia, one of ASV's network of chapters throughout the state. No previous experience in archaeology is required to be a member, only a strong interest in learning about and doing archaeology. Avocational members will have the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of archeology; participate in archaeological excavation, historical research, and laboratory analysis of artifacts; and apply to ASV's Certification and Training Program for Archaeological Technicians. ASV sponsors local chapters to promote the study of prehistoric and historic Virginia archaeology and anthropology and to provide critical community-based involvement in the work of appropriate exploration, thereby preventing the mishandling of irreplaceable cultural resources.
The new Historic Triangle Chapter of ASV will serve the greater Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown area. For more information, contact Forrest Morgan, ASV Vice-President and sponsor of the newly organizing chapter, at (804) 725-3121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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