By Michael Vernon Voss
Weapons Naval Station Yorktown Public Affairs Officer
NAVAL WEAPONS STATION YORKTOWN, Va. – Through an ongoing relationship between the Navy and the College of William and Mary, located in Williamsburg, Virginia; Naval Weapons Station Yorktown has become the center of some of the most important archaeological research in the country.
Since the naval installation was identified as a potential hot spot for archeological finds in 2001, the Cultural Resources Branch of Naval Facilities Engineering Command-Atlantic and the William & Mary Center for Archeological Research have partnered to study and preserve the historically rich land.
Each year under-graduate archeology and anthropology students, led by William and Mary Professor and Director of Graduate Studies Martin Gallivan, uncover missing chapters of information about the native Kiskiak Indians.
According to Professor Gallivan, the Kiskiak [whose descendants are today part of the Pamunkey and Mattaponi tribes in Virginia] were part of the Powhatan Indian tribe that lived along the York River more than 500 years before the first European colonists.
Through the years archeologists and students have unearthed copper pieces that were once traded for food, signs of oyster shell feast and stockade fence lines. Each discovery has yielded a look into how the Kiskiak lived, provided security for and planned their communities. Additionally, it has also assisted the Navy in complying with the National Historic Preservation Act.
According to the National Historic Preservation Act, the Department of Defense is responsible for three things that may sound simple, but prove complicated.
1.The DoD is responsible for managing and maintaining cultural resources under DoD control in a sustainable manner through a comprehensive program that considers the Preservation of historic, archaeological, architectural, and cultural values; is mission supporting; and results in sound and responsible stewardship.
2.The DoD must be an international and national leader in the stewardship of cultural resources by promoting and interpreting the cultural resources it manages to inspire DoD personnel and to encourage and maintain U.S. public support for its military.
3.The DoD must consult in good faith with internal and external stakeholders and promote partnerships to manage and maintain cultural resources by developing and fostering positive partnerships with Federal, tribal, State, and local government agencies; professional and advocacy organizations; and the general public.
Complying with these requirements is where the field study and relationship between the Navy and William and Mary really pays dividends. In fact, the cooperative agreement was recently cited in the fiscal year 2015 Chief of Naval Operations Large Installation Cultural Resources Management Award for establishing a benchmark example of installation commitment to environmental stewardship.
“The Navy has a responsibility to study and preserve our country’s native history,” explained Bruce Larson, NAVFAC-Atlantic Cultural Resources Branch manager. “Through these field studies we have good data about these historic sites and their significance.”
According to Larson, by understanding where these sites are and applying forward thinking to the construction planning process, the Navy meets the intent of the National Historic Preservation Act and saves the service money that would be required for preservation if discovered after construction of new or existing facilities.
“Through this relationship and because of these findings our engineers have a pretty good map of what they can and can't do with respect to these resources,” Larson says. ‘So it's been an upfront investment that will save the Navy a tremendous amount of time and money in the long run.”
As for the students who spend a semester painstakingly digging, measuring, cleaning and documenting the sites findings, they are afforded the opportunity apply their course work in an actual field study.
“For some students, this is one of the first steps in our students determining if they are truly interested in continuing the pursuit of a career in archeology,” said Gallivan. “For others nearing graduation, this apprenticeship allows them real-world experience supervising other students in a real field dig.”
According to Gallivan, the findings from the Weapons Station are taken back to William and Mary for additional cleaning, studying and documentation then returned to the Navy for archiving.