Uncommon Strength

An Archaeological View of Resilience

On Display
to
Exhibition Type
Long Term Display
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A photo of archaeological artifacts in a case with black and white photos and the text: Uncommon Strength

Admission: Included with Museum Daily Admission


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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.

Inside the Uncommon Strength Exhibition

Uncommon Strength Featured Artifacts

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Three gold thimbles with a ruler
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
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

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Archaeologists working at the Kingsmill Quarter
Archaeologists working at the Kingsmill Quarter (44JC39) at Kingsmill in James City County. Credit: Virginia Department of Historic Resources
Kingsmill Quarter

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

Credit: Virginia Department of Historic Resources

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Archaeologists examine a colonial-era trash pit from the Bray Site (44JC34) at Kingsmill in James City County.
Archaeologists examine a colonial-era trash pit from the Bray Site (44JC34) at Kingsmill in James City County. Credit: Virginia Department of Historic Resources
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

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

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

Credit: Virginia Department of Historic Resources