Our past is our cultural heritage, and understanding the past through public archaeology is critical to understanding, protecting, and celebrating the rich and diverse cultural heritage of the Eastern Shore. On June 18th, a formal archaeological dig took place at Bill Savage’s Pungo Creek Farm. The dig was sponsored by the Eastern Shore of Virginia Historical Society (www.shorehistory.org).
The Mirror contacted ESVHS collections manager Stephanie Templin regarding the importance and significance of the Pungo Creek Farm site,”At the Eastern Shore of Virginia Historical Society, our school program, History Travels, is often tagged as “Discovering the history in your own back yard,” which I think is a very apt line for why this site is important. Bill Savage found history in his back yard, and in digging through the land records, discovered that it was his own family history. This site provides an example of early colonial plantations on the eastern shore, and further archaeological work will help reveal the story behind this site. According to Bill, at some point in history, the buildings on the property burned, and it would be fascinating to discover when (and why) this happened. Artifacts found at previous digs indicate that there was trade between the colonial settlers and European merchants, as well as interactions between colonial settlers and the Native Americans on the Shore. Further Archaeology digs and research at this site will uncover an important part of early Eastern Shore history”.
So far the archaeological record consists of artifacts, architecture, biofacts or ecofacts. There is still a mystery of just what happened to the plantation (for more information, refer here). Mr. Savage has found several musket balls all across the property; since the plantation disappeared near or around 1812, one hypothesis is that the plantation was attacked by British forces that were stationed at Hogg Island during the war of 1812. Those troops are known to have terrorized farms and plantations in the area, burning houses, fields and killing livestock. Excavations of the cellars at the site have also revealed burned and charred wood, indicative of a structure that was burned down. Mr. Savage is also in the process of attempting to obtain military records kept by British officers during that time, which he hopes may shed more light on just what happened to the Lost Plantation on the Machipongo.
While this dig was an unqualified success, Mr. Savage told the Mirror, “We had a really good day yesterday and we plan on many digs in the future”.