Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Pocahontas update Back in this post I linked to an article that didn't think much of the NOVA program "Pocahontas Revealed" that aired last night. Turns out, I must disagree with its assessment.

I really liked it. As that reviewer noted, there isn't a whole lot one can say about Pocahontas the person, since no new documentary evidence has come to light recently that relates specifically to her. Nevertheless, the program's intent was clearly devoted to providing more context to the entire Pocahontas story that recent archaeological work has helped to uncover. In this, it succeeded quite well.

They didn't really overdramatize what new! exciting! stuff they were going to divulge, which is the usual schtick for these sorts of things. The dramatizations weren't too cheesy and overdramatized either, which is a complicated way of saying I never cringed while watching. The archaeology was straightforward and again, not overdramatized. We're all familiar with what can be done -- "Is THIS a lock of Nefertiti's hair??? We'll never TRULY know, but archaeologists say that this might indicate that she was. . . .MURDERED!" -- but they kept it low key. Ferinstance, they explained the problem of agricultural re-use of sites, and how even with the top 12" or so of disturbance -- they did use the term "plow zone"! -- you can still usually find postholes and undisturbed soil beneath it. They also did a fair job of showing how certain pottery traits -- cord stamping and temper -- are used to tie ceramic collections to particular groups, in this case the Powhatans.

Most of the Pocahontas-specific stuff was probably not new to anyone who has studied this bit of history in any detail, but to those of us who just have a vague recollection of what we were taught in school and what has made it through to popular culture, it did away with some of the mythology and produced a more complex, but believable story. It seems likely that there wasn't a romantic relationship between the two, more like a brother-sister sort of thing. Otherwise, Smith probably would have gone back to get her after being sent back to England to recuperate. But, who knows.

So, I give it a thumbs up and recommend seeing it the next time it comes on.