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September 11, 2012

Cooperation, Collaboration Re-create 1607 Mud-and-Stud Construction Method at Historic Jamestowne

Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Trades brickmakers are providing expertise and hands-on help as Jamestowne Rediscovery staff replicate the “mud-and-stud” construction method used by the very earliest Jamestown Island colonists.

Efforts to duplicate the construction method used in 1607 have been ongoing for the past year at the partially reconstructed “barracks” structure inside the original palisade of James Fort. Testing and demonstration of the building technique has been conducted by Jamestown Rediscovery senior archaeologist Dave Givens — with other staff members and students — and Colonial Williamsburg’s brickmakers — journeyman Jason Whitehead and apprentice Josh Graml.

“Digging and finding below ground remnants of buildings is only a first step for us to understand early Jamestown,” archaeological project director Dr. William Kelso said. “From postholes and related artifacts and by experimenting, we strive to replicate how the original colonists adapted to the new, often hostile, Virginia environment.”

The construction was fairly simple. The colonists erected a timber frame and then used a clay-based mud mix to cover the frame and fill the spaces between timbers. The relatively flimsy timber frame acts as a skeleton to support the 8-inch thick mud walls until they set up and can support themselves as well as the roof. After the mud dried, they sealed the mud walls against the weather with a solution of lime and animal fat — a period process called pargeting.

Although early written records and extant ancient buildings in Lincolnshire, England indicate the type of construction used in 1607, examples of how the colonists adapted this construction in America have not survived. Much of the testing during the past year involved reverse engineering — trying to duplicate the results evident in 400-year-old archaeological specimens.

Among the discoveries: the type of clay used in the mud makes a difference as does the consistency of the mud mix.

“Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Trades program focuses on the practice and products of trades at the time of the American Revolution,” said Jay Gaynor, Colonial Williamsburg’s director of Historic Trades. “Working with Jamestowne Rediscovery archaeologists and their discoveries, especially conducting hands-on experiments, allows Williamsburg tradespeople not only to enlighten our technical understanding of what went on at Jamestown 150 years earlier. It also provides insights revealing how the role of trades in American life evolved from their first appearance in Virginia to the end of the colonial period.”

The “mud-and-stud” construction effort is part of the collaboration announced in 2010 between The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and Preservation Virginia to showcase the connected histories of Jamestown and Williamsburg through compelling stories of discovery, diversity and democracy while highlighting America’s colonial development as well as its revolutionary heritage.

Admission to Historic Jamestowne is $10 per adult (which includes both Historic Jamestowne and Yorktown Battlefield). Children under age 16 are admitted free. America the Beautiful National Park passes are accepted. Preservation Virginia members are also admitted free. For further information, call (757) 229-4497 or visit

Historic Jamestowne is located at 1368 Colonial Parkway on Jamestown Island, seven miles west of Williamsburg. It can be reached via the Colonial Parkway or VA State Route 31.

Historic Jamestowne is jointly administered by the National Park Service and The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation (on behalf of Preservation Virginia) and preserves the original site of the first permanent English settlement in the New World.

Guests to Historic Jamestowne share the moment of discovery with archaeologists and witness archaeology in action at the 1607 James Fort excavation April-October; learn about the Jamestown Rediscovery excavation at the Nathalie P. and Alan M. Voorhees Archaearium, the site's archaeology museum; tour the original 17th-century church tower and reconstructed 17th-century Jamestown Memorial Church; and take a walking tour with a Park Ranger through the New Towne area along the scenic James River. Guests can also enjoy lunch or a snack by the James River at the Dale House Café.

Preservation Virginia, a private non-profit organization and statewide historic preservation leader founded in 1889, is dedicated to perpetuating and revitalizing Virginia's cultural, architectural and historic heritage thereby ensuring that historic places are integral parts of the lives of present and future generations. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational and cultural organization dedicated to the preservation, interpretation and presentation of the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational and cultural organization dedicated to the preservation, interpretation and presentation of the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia. This town-sized living history museum tells the inspirational stories of our journey to become Americans through the award-winning Revolutionary City® program.

Revolutionary City® is a registered trademark of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s website at

Media Contact:
Jim Bradley
(757) 220-7281