Computer graphics today are allowing glimpses of the past never thought possible before. It is now becoming possible to take paintings and sketches from the past and recreate a three-dimensional space from these and other sources. Recently, students in the University of Virginia School of Architecture, under the guidance of Prof. Earl Mark, recreated a Native American village from the late sixteenth century.
John White Watercolors and de Bry Engravings
As their primary source, the students used the paintings of John White, an Englishman who visited what would become the North Carolina coast between 1585 and 1590. These paintings, depicting life in a Pomeiooc Indian settlement, were sent back to England and engraved by De Bry for publication. These plates were meant to encourage English expansion into North America.
By taking careful measurements of these watercolors, and determining the perspectives used in the paintings, the students recreated a three-dimensional composite of the images. From there, the students created a number of computer generated images of the village that allow one to view the arrangement of houses in the village.
Archaeological Site Maps
It is now planned to create a Monacan village in a similar fashion to the computer-generated village created before. Unfortunately, there exist no paintings of a Monacan village similar to those of White. Instead, archaeological evidence serves as the main basis of information in the recreation of this second village. Information from the Hoge and Crab Orchard sites in western Virginia show clearly the outlines of buildings, with postmolds serving as remnants of the original structures present. However, the recreation becomes complicated due to the fact that not all of the remains seen in the archaeological record were contemporary, and few dates are available for individual buildings.
Reconstructed Powhatan Village at Jamestown
The Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation has created a three-dimensional village on a much larger scale. Near the recreated fort at Jamestown, visitors can now also stroll through a recreated Powhatan Indian village. This recreation takes clear examples from the White watercolors, as well as other sources. Within the village, several buildings have been built, most of which include a smoke pit in the center of an oval-shaped house. This same shape of structure seems to be found across the state, with small variations between archaeological sites. Also included at the reconstructed village is a dancing pole similar to the one depicted by White and a nearby garden.