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The E-Sylum (2/26/2017)

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David Sundman forwarded this New York Times obituary of colonial archaeologist Noël Hume. Thanks. -Editor

Colonial Archaeologist Noel Hume Ivor Noël Hume, an accidental, self-taught English-born archaeologist who unearthed the earliest extensive traces of British colonial America, a town that had vanished after a massacre almost 350 years earlier, died on Feb. 4 at his home in Williamsburg, Va. He was 89.

In 1970, as the director of archaeology at Colonial Williamsburg, Mr. Noël Hume was searching in the ruins of Carter’s Grove, a nearby 17th-century plantation along the James River, when he and his colleagues discovered the remains of a once-fortified settlement called Wolstenholme Towne.

The site was founded in 1619 by 220 men and women who had arrived on the vessel Gift of God to establish a plantation for the Virginia Company of London. The settlement, named for John Wolstenholme, a prominent company shareholder, was about nine miles downstream from Jamestown, where colonists had first landed 12 years before.

As the head of archaeology at Williamsburg and an author of ultimately more than two dozen books, Mr. Noël Hume endowed the unvarnished artifacts he unearthed with a social and economic perspective.

The newspaper Antiques and the Arts Weekly recently credited his books, lectures and television presentations with propelling the field of historical archaeology “to the forefront of his profession.”

Reviewing his book “The Virginia Adventure,” the historian Arthur Quinn wrote in The New York Times Book Review in 1994 that Mr. Noël Hume “will charm the mute artifacts into speaking about subjects on which the written record has preferred to remain silent.”

David points out this paragraph, "which illustrates the positive aspect of collecting ancient coinage." -Editor

Mr. Noël Hume, who had been fascinated by artifacts since he received a gift of ancient Greek coins as a child but who did not have a degree in archaeology, proudly considered himself to be a historical detective.

“Historical archaeology,” he wrote, “simply means hunting for physical evidence and reviewing it alongside the testimony of people who knew or saw what happened.”

To read the complete article, see:
Ivor Noël Hume, Archaeologist of Colonial America, Dies at 89 (

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