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Understanding Native American Structures

Powhatan House Construction

The postmold patterns of 44JC308 structures suggest that house construction techniques at Paspahegh were similar to those described by English observers. The paired postmolds along the length of the excavated structures, such as Structure 8, likely correspond to the ends of a series of pre-made arches of lashed saplings, creating a half-barrel-shaped structure, as seen in the DeBry engraving to the left, and as suggested by Strachey's description:

[their houses were] "like gardein arbours...of such young plants as they can pluck vp, bow, and make the greene toppes meete together in fashion of a rownd roofe"

Unlike the structures built by the North Carolina Algonquians and depicted by White and DeBry, the narrow ends of the 44JC308 buildings are rounded. A further disparity is apparent in the placement of entryways, which at 44JC308 appear to have been most commonly located at the corners of the structures.

The series of postmolds in the center of Structure 8 may be the remains of the interior supports for a smoke hole in the roof, such as those noted by English observers located directly above the central hearth of Powhatan houses.

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Site 44JC803

This image is a section of "The Tovvne of Pomeiooc" an engraving by Theodor De Bry (printed 1590) based on watercolor by John White. (Courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University.)