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Preservation Virginia > Jamestown Rediscovery > Exhibit > Jamestown Fort: Rediscovered > The Things > Trade


Trade Goods The English relied heavily on their trade with the native Algonquian population to provide food for the colony in the first years of settlement. We see that trade reflected in Indian-made pots in the fort used for cooking and storage and, perhaps, to deliver corn to the colonists. But what did the English have to give in return? Captain John Smith mentions sky-blue beads among other things. Archaeologists have found a variety of glass beads at Jamestown, including blue ones, which were brought from England for trade with the Indians. The beads are believed to have been made by Venetian glassmakers, some of whom may have been working in Amsterdam.

Perhaps even more interesting to the local Powhatan Indians were copper beads and ornaments. The Powhatans prized the copper as the English did gold, but were at war with the Monacan tribe to the west - their main source for native copper. A jeweler, Daniel Stallings, was among the craftsmen listed as coming to Jamestown in 1608. He must have been busy making copper items to trade judging by the amount of copper scraps left behind. More than anything else, copper may have saved Jamestown from destruction by the Indians in those first years.

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