Investigators discovered, as Wainwright thought they might, evidence of a Virginia Indian town. In particular, they found three concentric palisades with a diameter of 400 feet, inside of which were fourteen circular house patterns with hearths, more than 195 storage pits, and, mostly between the homes and the town walls, more than 175 human burials. Investigators also identified a semi-subterranean structure outside the palisades. In addition, they unearthed ceramics, mostly Radford Ware but also New River and Wythe wares, along with lithic artifacts and small black cannel coal pendants and beads made from copper, marine shell, and bird bone.
Currently open to the public as part of the Crab Orchard Museum and Pioneer Park, the Crab Orchard site was placed on the Virginia Landmarks Register in 1978 and National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
The Virginia Indian town at the Crab Orchard Archaeological Site likely was built between AD 1400 and 1600, although the first palisaded towns in the area appeared as early as around AD 1200. The remains of three concentric palisades suggest that the wall was built three times—the houses, too, showed signs of being rebuilt—marking this spot as a long-term settlement. It is unclear, however, what the palisades around this southwestern Virginia town meant, having been constructed for possibly protection or perhaps to recognize or symbolize an important leader or chief residing in the town. Most towns, permanent or impermanent, were located on waterways, such as, in this case, the Clinch River. And evidence gathered from around Virginia suggests that even permanent towns moved every twenty years or so.
Throughout Virginia, it was rare for town populations to exceed a couple hundred people. However, there were some fifty houses at Crab Orchard, and each house likely was home to six to ten people, giving the town a population of about 400. It is unclear why Crab Orchard was so large with possible explanations being that this size was due to the town being especially prestigious or located in a particularly dangerous area.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Egloff, K. Crab Orchard Archaeological Site. (2016, July 26). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Crab_Orchard_Archaeological_Site.
- MLA Citation:
Egloff, Keith. "Crab Orchard Archaeological Site." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 26 Jul. 2016. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: July 25, 2016 | Last modified: July 26, 2016