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Finding the Farmstead
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Archaeology at Martin’s Hundred

The archaeology of Martin’s Hundred began in 1970 and 1971, when archaeologist William M. Kelso was dispatched under the direction of Ivor Noël Hume to survey the grounds of the eighteenth-century plantation of Carter’s Grove that had recently been acquired by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. During the survey, in addition to the identification of various eighteenth-century sites related to the Burwell occupation of Carter’s Grove, Kelso and his crew unexpectedly discovered a series of sites littered with early seventeenth-century artifacts that pre-dated the development of the plantation by over a hundred years. Unbeknownst to the archaeologists at the time, what they had found was the first archaeological traces of Martin’s Hundred, a particular plantation of the Virginia Company founded in 1619.

Ivor Noël Hume’s Martin’s Hundred is an excellent introduction to the history of Wolstenholme Town and the Martin’s Hundred community

Between 1976 and 1982, Ivor Noël Hume returned to Carter’s Grove and carried out extensive excavations at several of the Martin’s Hundred sites first identified by Kelso and his crew. In particular, Noël Hume’s excavations focused on the initial settlement of the community between 1619 and 1622 known as Wolstenholme Town, and the reestablishment of the community in 1623 following the Powhatan uprising. The results of his excavations have been widely published in a series of articles in National Geographic, as well as several books that chronicle the excavation process and the early history of Martin’s Hundred. In addition, an extensive exhibit showcasing Noel Hume’s discoveries at Martin’s Hundred is the focus of the Winthrop Rockefeller Archaeological Museum located on the grounds of the Carter’s Grove Plantation.

Since the conclusion of Noël Hume’s investigations, several additional seventeenth-century Martin’s Hundred sites have been identified and excavated. Recent research has focused on Martin’s Hundred sites that date after 1650, when the denser occupation and corporate ownership of the early years gave way to larger, more widely scattered tobacco farms owned by small and middling planters. Unlike the sites excavated by Noël Hume, only a small number of archaeological sites, and very little corresponding historical documentation represent this later period. The excavation of the Atkinson site, represents the most recent attempt by archaeologists from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation to better comprehend this poorly understood period of early colonial life.

Excavating the Site