Ivor Noel Hume: His story is one of uncovering Virginia history and burying rumors

Historians in the News

Ivor Noel Hume recalls the day in 1975 when Colonial Williamsburg President Carlisle Humelsine asked if he was doing anything interesting.

"I was a bit irritated at that," says Noel Hume in his characteristic forthright manner, "because I thought I was always doing something interesting."

And he was. CW's chief of archaeology and his staff had found something intriguing while digging on the grounds of the Carter's Grove plantation: evidence of a settlement dating way, way back to the early 17th century, near the very beginning of English America. What Humelsine was looking for was something to entertain a National Geographic Society bigwig who'd be visiting that weekend. That visit wound up as part of one of the biggest stories in Tidewater Virginia's uncovering of its Colonial past - and in the career of Ivor Noel Hume.

Noel Hume, Williamsburg's premier archaeologist from the 1950s through the 1980s, has had plenty of highlights in that career. He established historical archaeology as an important discipline in this country, made numerous discoveries about people and places past - while disproving a couple of things we thought we knew about them - and mentored a generation of noted archaeologists now in the field.

He's also popularized the business of digging into the past to a wider audience through his writings: 15 books so far, not counting the several specialized archaeological works he produced for CW.

Come June, it will be 50 years since Noel Hume first came to Virginia from his native England. At age 78, with his trim moustache now gray but his British accent lingering, he's still an imposing figure. In the living room of his home, its bay window overlooking the James River that has figured greatly in his work, he sat down recently to reminisce about that half century - and offer a few opinions on what it's all meant....
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