Date of Award

Summer 1996

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Director

Kathy L. Pearson

Committee Member

Helen C. Rountree

Committee Member

Douglas G. Greene

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.H85 C296


Seventeenth-century Powhatan Indians practiced a subsistence economy utilizing plant resources from both the forest and wetland areas of Virginia to maintain adequate nutrition levels throughout the year. They chose not to depend heavily upon maize agriculture, but instead combined marine and animal resources with wild plants according to the seasonal round. Cultigens such as squash, beans, and maize provided dietary sources for only six months of the year; foraged plant foods made up the difference. Primary plant resources included nuts such as acorns, chestnuts, and hickory and the emergent tubers known as tuckahoe. Secondary plant foods, such as starchy seeds, leaves, and shoots, were also manipulated. The Powhatans would have been unable to maintain their lifeways without a wide range of plants in their diet; their willingness to capitalize on wild resources ensured that their food habits would remain largely unchanged by European contact until the end of the century.


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