is not unlikely that the Indians of the Atlantic coast may have known
of pearls from the common clam as well as from the edible oyster. The
former may have often contained pearls weighing from fifty to one
hundred grains each, as at that period the mollusks were permitted to
attain their full growth, and perhaps were not eaten except when they
were as small as little-neck clams ; the larger ones were sought for
the purple spot which held the muscle, and was used for wampum. We have
no record of the finding of pearls in any graves north of Virginia, as
the many graves opened in the past century have failed to reveal them,
nor has the use of pearls been mentioned by any of the early writers.
They may have been worn, but if so they have passed away or may have
been mistaken for ashes if they had decrepitated.
first English settlers found the Indians of the tidewater region of
what now constitutes the Middle States using pearls quite freely and
esteeming them among their favorite treasures and ornaments. Captain
John Smith, and all the early chroniclers "of the Virginia colony, have
given many accounts of this aboriginal use of pearls.
view of the general interest awakened by the tercentenary of the
founding of Jamestown, and the exposition in commemoration thereof, the
"American Anthropologist" devoted its first number for 1907
principally to topics relating to the Virginia Indians.1
Among these articles is one of much interest by Mr. Charles C.
Willoughby, of the Peabody Museum at Cambridge, Massachusetts, dealing
with the tribes occupying tidewater Virginia at the time of the first
colonization, their habits and customs, their distribution, and their
subsequent history of diminution and almost of extinction. These were
a branch of the Algonquian stock, and extended as far south as the
Neuse River in North Carolina. To the south and west they were hemmed
in by tribes of Iroquoian and Siouan race, and on the north they were
separated from other hostile Indians by the Potomac River and
Chesapeake Bay. The powerful confederacy under Powhatan comprised some
thirty tribes or "provinces," covering most of the tidewater region of
Virginia proper. To the greater chiefs, John Smith states that tribute
was paid, consisting of "skinnes, beads, copper, pearle, deere,
turkies, wild beasts and corne."2 Many other references in
this article confirm and illustrate this general statement, especially
regarding pearls, both as to their use by the living and their deposit
with the remains of the dead.
In the account given of the native clothing, the outer mantles are
'"AmericanAnthropologist,"Lancaster,Pa., '"True Travels," Richmond edition, 1819,
Vol. IX, No. 1, Jan.-March, 1907, pp. 57-86., p. 144.