ure omps 2010
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Cobbs Point-Culpeper Rebellion Archaeology Project

Keywords: Digital Orthographic Quarter Quad (DOQQ), Aerial Photographs, Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), transects, anecdotal evidence.


During the decade of 1670 to 1680, political maneuverings were initiated by prominent property owners north of Albemarle Sound with the ultimate intent of obtaining control of the lucrative tobacco trade developing between New England and the mother country.  These activities, aggravated by severe weather and low crop yields, and a perception of excessive crown taxation erupted in a bloodless rebellion against the laws and governance of the crown.  The rebellion was ultimately resolved peacefully and without significant bloodshed.  The center of activities during these events was the courthouse and customs house reported to be located on the Pasquotank River at Cobb’s Point, South of the current center of Elizabeth City.  Early maps show a building near the shore with another rumored to be nearby, not far from the foot of a dock at which shipments of tobacco were sent to customers.    Anecdotal evidence and local tradition hold the two buildings to be located near or incorporated into structures located on the Winslow Farm which was developed into a subdivision around 1960.  This land has recently become available and accessible for an exploratory survey to ascertain the location of any historically significant structures and to determine the extent of any remains that may yet exist. 

Aerial photos of the Elizabeth City area, made prior to and just after World War 2, were examined to determine the location of the original shoreline and any structures that may have contained elements of the original colonial era buildings.  Modern Digital Orthographic Quarter Quad (DOQQ) aerial photographs were used to provide geo-referencing of the early aerial photographs.  The geographic coordinates of structures formerly occupying the Cobb’s Point site defined an area that allowed a Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey to be made. The purpose of the survey was to reveal whether any remains of earlier structures are present.  The area was covered in transects enabling linear data to be collected. Transects were made at sufficiently small separation to allow computer processing aided re-construction of a three-dimensional visualization of what lies beneath the surface to a depth of about 3 meters.  The features appear to be present within the soil depth probed by GPR, their nature and exact location may be determined by a trained archaeologist using a probing device to physically penetrate the soil at locations revealed by the GPR survey.  Sufficiently interesting results prompted a request to the property owners to allow excavation of any structural remains that have been discovered.