Images of a Legend

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de Bry

1590, Theodor de Bry (after John White)

If she had never been abducted and married into English culture, how would Pocahontas have appeared as a young woman? What did she look like as an adolescent, when John Smith first encountered her? A hint of the answers may lie in this colored engraving based on watercolors done by John White, an English artist and explorer who lived among native Virginians in 1585-86, roughly a decade before Pocahontas's birth. According to White's images and related text, a Powhatan girl wore no clothing before puberty. From about the age of 12 onward, she donned a deerskin skirt, perhaps decorated with beads or carved with figures from nature. Powhatan women also adorned themselves with tattoos and body paint derived from roots, as well as necklaces, bracelets, and earrings strung with freshwater pearls, shell beads, copper, animal teeth, or beads of bone.

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