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Detail of Plateau Bag (NMNH catalog no. E204234)

Executive Summary

Inventory and Assessment of Human Remains from
the Hand Site (44SN22), Southampton County, Virginia,
in the National Museum of Natural History

Region: Southeast
Associated Cultures: Iroquois, Nansemond, Nottaway

In compliance with Public Law 101-185, the National Museum of the American Indian Act, this report provides an inventory and assessment of the human remains in the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) from the Hand Site (44SN22) in southeastern Virginia.

Documentation of the remains from this site was initiated in August 1993 in response to a request from Mr. Oliver Perry, Assistant Chief, Nansemond Tribe, for the return of any culturally affiliated remains from Virginia. Mr. Perry identified the Hand Site as a settlement of concern to the Nansemond from an inventory sent to him by the Department of Anthropology, NMNH. The other Native American group potentially affected by the findings of this report is the Iroquoian Nottoway, who no longer exist as a tribe.

The remains of 117 individuals, represented by 97 catalogs numbers (P38279-865), in the Physical Anthropology division of the NMNH were identified as having come from the Hand Site. They were transferred to the Department of Anthropology, NMNH by the excavation Field Director, Gerald Smith, on 26 October, 1972 and accessioned into the collections as a single assemblage (SI Accession Number 302772) on 16 January 1973.

The Hand Site is an Early Historic site dating to ca. A.D. 1580-1640 located in southeastern Virginia near the North Carolina border. This region is identified in the ethno-historic record as being occupied by the Iroquoian Nottoway in the 16-17th centuries. Although Nansemond Indians shared reservation lands with the Nottoway in the vicinity of the Hand site, their ownership of the land, from 1744 to the 1790's, post-dates occupation of the site. At the time of habitation of the Hand Site, the primary Nansemond settlements were along the Nansemond River, about 13 miles above the mouth of the James River, on the southern shore.

An assessment of mortuary practices, house size and ethnohistoric documentation indicates that the inhabitants of the Hand Site were Iroquoian. This supports the conclusions of the excavators that this was a Nottoway Site. As there are no longer any federally recognized Nottoway groups, it was recommended that the human material from the Hand Site remain in the NMNH Department of Anthropology Physical Anthropology Collections.

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