Uncommon Strength

An Archaeological View of Resilience

From
Open
Daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
Location
Vickie and Tom Snead Lobby - North Gallery

This exhibition developed in partnership with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources relies on the use of cultural context in archaeological investigations to interpret the ways in which enslaved Africans resisted bondage and created their own history and culture.

Image
A photo of archaeological artifacts in a case with black and white photos and the text: Uncommon Strength

Admission: Included with Museum Daily Admission

Square feet: 120

Number of artifacts: Over 100 archaeological artifacts from the Department of Historic Resources collection.

About the Exhibition: Uncommon Strength: An Archaeological View of Resilience introduces artifacts from different cultural groups that were found in one common site to illustrate how different groups of people create unique artifacts; objects from the combined activity spaces between enslavers and the enslaved, demonstrating how enslaved people asserted their identities while under the watchful gaze of enslavers; and objects presented from a Black cultural context that illustrates how enslaved people expressed their collective and individual lives. Uncommon Strength challenges the standard narrative that limits Black history to the institution of slavery and offers a new perspective that suggests that this history begins with the thoughts and actions of enslaved people ­— not their captors.

Highlights: Cowrie moneta, a variety used as international currency across Europe, African, Asia, and the Americas; a brick produced locally by enslaved craftsmen before the Civil War; teapot acquired through combined purchasing power and reflecting hard-won privileges earned by enslaved residents; and spoons recovered from structures inhabited by enslaved Virginians in James City County, 1700-1790 – no two spoons have the same design and each design is an expression of individual identity that may have African origins.

Support: This exhibition was developed in partnership with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

Image
Three gold thimbles with a ruler
Thimbles

Thimbles (left and middle) from the mid-1600s found at the Eyresville site on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Thimbles protect a sewer’s finger as they push a needle through cloth and were traditionally used by women. The open top of the thimble ring (right) distinguishes it from thimbles with an enclosed top. Thimble rings were favored by male tailors. The indentations on its surface were created by hand, suggesting that this thimble was made during the early 1600s. 

Credit: Virginia Department of Historic Resources

Media Caption
Thimbles (left and middle) from the mid-1600s found at the Eyresville site on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Thimbles protect a sewer’s finger as they push a needle through cloth and were traditionally used by women. The open top of the thimble ring (right) distinguishes it from thimbles with an enclosed top. Thimble rings were favored by male tailors. The indentations on its surface were created by hand, suggesting that this thimble was made during the early 1600s.  Credit: Virginia Department of Historic Resources
Image
Archaeologists working at the Kingsmill Quarter
Kingsmill Quarter

Archaeologists working at the Kingsmill Quarter (44JC39) at Kingsmill in James City County.

Credit: Virginia Department of Historic Resources

Media Caption
Archaeologists working at the Kingsmill Quarter (44JC39) at Kingsmill in James City County. Credit: Virginia Department of Historic Resources
Image
Archaeologists examine a colonial-era trash pit from the Bray Site (44JC34) at Kingsmill in James City County.
Trash Pit

Archaeologists examine a colonial-era trash pit from the Bray Site (44JC34) at Kingsmill in James City County.

Credit: Virginia Department of Historic Resources

Media Caption
Archaeologists examine a colonial-era trash pit from the Bray Site (44JC34) at Kingsmill in James City County. Credit: Virginia Department of Historic Resources
Image
Archaeologist working at the root cellar complex at the Kingsmill Quarter (44JC0039) in James City County
Root Cellar

Archaeologist working at the root cellar complex at the Kingsmill Quarter (44JC0039) in James City County.

Credit: Virginia Department of Historic Resources

Media Caption
Archaeologist working at the root cellar complex at the Kingsmill Quarter (44JC0039) in James City County. Credit: Virginia Department of Historic Resources