From the earliest settlement at Jamestown to later plantation style living around the shores of the Bay, humans have used technologies crafted to suit the Chesapeake area in order to exist. For a civilization to thrive in this particular area one of the most critical things the peoples of the region must overcome is how to adapt to fulfill their own needs. More specifically the technologies used to survive lead for the evolution of settlement, colonization, and plantation style living in the region. These adaptations as aforementioned, were well documented and obvious on our journey as a class to historical sites around the Chesapeake Bay such as the Jamestown Settlement, Colonial Williamsburg, and the Harriet Tubman Museum.
Beginning with the first English settlers to land on Jamestown in 1607, the need to survive was already present. Surrounded by marsh, Jamestown was not the most ideal living conditions to men who were by no means trained for survival. The lack of knowledge and the limited supplies brought over put settlers in a position to adapt to regional foods and natural resources. To do this they built relations with the indigenous peoples of the area and learned from their ways to survive in this location. Evidence of this is found especially in artifacts collected in dig sites of the original settlement. Pointed out by Senior Staff Archeologist Danny Schmidt, a few examples from the dig site that suggests this adaptation of technology are the seeds of pumpkin and other native species that the indigenous peoples used and most likely gave the settlers. Most specifically noted, this was then backed up in a lecture given by Professor Kate Livie when she made mention of this assimilation by the colonists to native culture and practices especially agriculturally. This suggests that early agricultural practices existed to aid the settlers nutritionally in order for their survival. Other artifacts mentioned were axes, spades, hooks used for fishing, and many others that can closely be linked to the adaptation these colonists undertook to extract the natural resources in the region to survive. Evidence of wells were abundantly found showing that colonists utilized ground water as the primary watering source which again exhibits the implantation of technology for the survival of colonists.
After the earliest settlement of Jamestown finally sustained its existence and more people and supplies arrived continuously, the colony of Williamsburg was established in 1658. While visiting Colonial Williamsburg on this journey it seemed there was much less of a struggle for survival. One specific idea that lead me to believe this was found in the infrastructure of the colony. As discussed by Dr. Seidel, in some of the earlier structures of buildings, a Mortise and Tenon building structure was used which featured lumber as the main building material. This system utilized specific interlocking pieces of wood to hold up a frame of the building (Seidel, 2017). This was seen in early Jamestown settlement, but later the shift during colonization went to a more materialistic approach of Georgian architecture which focused on the use of bricks formed from naturally occurring clay from the region (Seidel, 2017). When visiting both Jamestown and Williamsburg this evolution of technologies used sets a clear example as to how the people progressed as a colony in the later parts of the 16th century. Plantations in the area also exhibited both of the structures as well but wealth played a role in if one could afford a more grandiose Georgian style house, but both are clear examples of the adaptations taken by early Americans to expand on this new territory.
Lastly, food security was instrumental in the building of this region. When first learning about the simpler advancements that took place dating back to even before the Contact Period, Natives would use methods such as smoking to preserve meats, as well as utilizing clay pots and other cook ware to make food more accessible to both young and old members of society (Seidel, 2017). As discussed by Dr. Seidel, the method of using pottery to cook allowed food to be prepared in order for mouths of both young and old members in society to eat which could let mothers to wean their children earlier, thus being capable of having more children. Smoked fish could also have allowed for more food access in the harsher winter months of the year, which again provided Native societies to have food security to grow (Seidel, 2017). Another take on the development of technologies in the region for survival can even be seen in the enslaved peoples of the 17th to 19th centuries.
For me I came into this journey thinking food wasn’t too much of an issue with slaves working on plantations during these times, but in reality this could not be further from the truth. During both our interview with Janice Canady a local slavery interpreter in Colonial Williamsburg, as well as the trip to the Harriet Tubman museum, it was apparent that slaves were undernourished. After working during the day, slaves would have time off to sleep. This period of time was precious to these peoples so they found ways to supplement their diets using what they could forage, hunt, or grow themselves. Present in the slave quarters we visited in Colonial Williamsburg, were fish traps, beans hanging to dry, a large bowl for cooking, and a brick fire place. The traps clearly showed how slaves adapted to this region for they were a technology that did not need constant monitoring but still provided supplementary nutrition to them. Another feature of a common slave house was the typical “Trunk” garden, a smaller plot of land they would grow to further add to their lacking diets. All of these examples allow us to get a better understanding on how specific technologies such as agricultural practices, cooking ware, or trap making, on how the assimilation to one’s surroundings allowed for existence on this land.
In summation, this Journey through time could accurately represent the constant need for technology to implement an improved lifestyle on the Chesapeake Bay. Starting even before colonization, we could see how Native populations sustained a growing population with implementing technologies like pottery and smoking racks to provide food security for many months of the year including the winter. This then is later on seen once settlers arrive utilizing local knowledge on the complexities of agricultural practices in the area and other means of natural resource extraction through the archaeological discoveries of fishing hooks, axes, and spades to help nourish and build their society. Colonization in Williamsburg also displays a plethora of technologies in specific the development of architectures to use first wood as the primary building material then through advancement of technologies moving to the more materialistic stable structures of Georgian architecture for those who could afford it. Slavery during colonization and until its abolishment in the 19th century also features an array of how a culture maintained its living using technologies like traps, cooking materials, and those involved in agriculture. This idea of the changing of technologies to adapt to the environment is still seen in modern day Chesapeake and will continue to evolve in time as it did in the time periods studied on Journey 1 of the Chesapeake Semester.