Thursday, September 30, 2010

Designing a Replica Village for a Flood - Update on Rebuild

We are at the beginning of our Fall school groups. Very excited to have our students back. Our teachers who have brought their students back every year since we opened Wolf Creek Village are nothing but pleased with our rebuild results. We have 3 of the new round house structures open with a 4th structure opened by next week. With a crew of 2 working on the rebuild, available staff and many dedicated volunteers to which we owe a debt of gratitude, the village is coming back to life.

Sorry we have been slack on updating the blog....little busy. As I review the pictures to place on the blog, tropical storm Nicole is passing through. The rain falling outside always concerns us at Wolf Creek Indian Village. The village is situated along Wolf Creek and when the creek waters rise, the village floods.

I often wonder if the Virginia Indians who lived here 500 years ago had to endure a couple of floods a year as we do and what did they do?  Our small docile creek can turn into looking like the Mississippi with strong currents and churning water. We count on at least 2 floods a year on a regular basis. When it floods we hope nothing floats away and every structure still stands.  We just clean up, open the village back up and move on.

As I was looking at the new rebuild pictures I realize in the decade I've been here how much that flooding has influenced our rebuild. We used the archeology map for the original design of where pole placements are but the materials we choose in the modern day are choosen with the hope they will last a while in more modern terms or can easily be replaced.

The Virginia Indians in this area were definitely an example of a Native American working community though semi nomadic. They stayed in an area as long as the resources held out to support the village and then moved. If these structures were waddle and daub and it flooded then the walls would have to have repairs or replacement of clay. If the untreated wood rotted from being wet it would have weakened and needed replaced fairly often. 

Without Lowes or Home Depot available to truck resources in it could explain why this village moved within 10 years and remained undisturbed until 1970. That is an assumption as to how long it existed and also what the environment was. It might not have flooded as much 500 years ago because the virgin forest would still have been intact and the run off from the interstate didn't exist. But it definitely floods now and we have changed what we are building versus what they had available so we can remain in one spot. We are using treated wood and materials at ground level that can be easily replaced.

We are not the only site plagued by how to build to make it last using more modern materials. Other reconstructed sites such as Town Creek have used a sort of concrete fiber glass colored material in place of clay for their waddle and daub round houses. We are thinking of an experiment to do one small structure to see how it withstands a flood from Wolf Creek. Concrete can absorb moisture and weaken. It can also freeze and crack during a winter flood.

Yet this reconstruction has given real insight into how the people lived 500 years ago just by how the village was set up.  The entire placement of the village structures tells a story. I will update this post in the next day or so with new photos and explain that. These photos are from 2 weeks ago and more of the rebuild has been accomplished. Hope those that have been here before will come see us. It's truly amazing how the architectual elements stand out from the older reconstruction.


Inside meeting lodge. 2 foot flood allowance. We will add something that can be removed quickly in case of flash flood warnings.


Cooks & Gardens River Cane wall matting being applied.

Second Largest structure that we demonstrate Pottery in.

Meeting lodge ready for Flexibark. Another material we are using for longevity.

Inside Cooks & Gardens


Another View of inside Cooks & Gardens

Meeting lodge looking at eastern door and benches

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