The harsh winter of 1609 in Virginia’s Jamestown Colony forced residents to do the unthinkable. A recent excavation at the historic site discovered the carcasses of dogs, cats and horses consumed during the season commonly called the “Starving Time.” But a few other newly discovered bones in particular, though, tell a far more gruesome story: the dismemberment and cannibalization of a 14-year-old English girl.
“The chops to the forehead are very tentative, very incomplete,” says Douglas Owsley, the Smithsonian forensic anthropologist who analyzed the bones after they were found by archaeologists from Preservation Virginia. “Then, the body was turned over, and there were four strikes to the back of the head, one of which was the strongest and split the skull in half. A penetrating wound was then made to the left temple, probably by a single-sided knife, which was used to pry open the head and remove the brain.” Read more.
Archaeologists at the early 17th century English colonial site of Jamestown in Virginia have been steadily unearthing a 25-foot-long L-shaped cellar located inside the enclosed area of the original “footprint” of the 1607 James Fort, uncovering two remarkably well preserved brick ovens that show evidence of extensive use before they were abandoned to time.
“These are some of the most intact ovens we’ve ever excavated here at Jamestown,” said archaeologist Mary Anna Richardson.
What is more, they seem to have retained features that would, at least theoretically, permit a person today to use the ovens for baking. According to senior staff archaeologist Danny Schmidt, “these two now we could fire right up today”. Read more.
Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Trades brickmakers are providing expertise and hands-on help as Jamestowne Rediscovery staff replicate the “mud-and-stud” construction method used by the very earliest Jamestown Island colonists.
Efforts to duplicate the construction method used in 1607 have been ongoing for the past year at the partially reconstructed “barracks” structure inside the original palisade of James Fort. Testing and demonstration of the building technique has been conducted by Jamestown Rediscovery senior archaeologist Dave Givens — with other staff members and students — and Colonial Williamsburg’s brickmakers — journeyman Jason Whitehead and apprentice Josh Graml.
“Digging and finding below ground remnants of buildings is only a first step for us to understand early Jamestown,” archaeological project director Dr. William Kelso said. Read more.
JAMES CITY —— More than 400 years after America’s first permanent English settlement rose from the ground, archaeologists are combining local clay, loam and black needle rush grass in an experimental effort to recreate the unique method used to construct some of the colony’s earliest buildings.
The project blends archaeological evidence gleaned from Jamestown with research into the traditional mud-and-stud building techniques of Lincolnshire, England, which was the home of such key settlers asCapt. John Smith and carpenter William Laxton.
It also requires Preservation Virginia archaeologist David Givens and his Historic Jamestowne students to learn on the job, employing their eyes and fingertips in a trial-and-error attempt to unlock the lost secrets of the simple but age-old tradition of building with mud. Read more.
It was discovered while archaeologists were carefully digging fill soil above a cellar dated to the early James Fort period (1607-1610) at Jamestown, Virginia, the site of North America’s first successful English colony. The artifact was the lower leaf of an ivory pocket sundial known in the 17th century as a diptych dial. It clearly bore the name of its maker, Hans Miller, who was a 17th century craftsman known to have made sundials in Nuremberg, Germany. Like many objects found at the Jamestown excavations, it had taken the long journey across the Atlantic, likely in the pocket of one of early Jamestown’s gentlemen colonists. Such pieces were more commonly carried by individuals of gentry status.
It is not totally unique within the Jamestown context. Another lower leaf section of a table dial was recovered in 1998 from a structure near one of the palisades of the original James Fort. The diptych dial, on the other hand, was found in a cellar near James Fort’s first well, which was only 10 feet away from the cellar. Read more.
Since the sensational 1994 discovery of James Fort, the first permanent English settlement in the New World, excavations have revealed palisade walls and numerous buildings, along with remarkable clues about the Anglo-American culture that started with the landing of colonists on Virginia’s Jamestown Island in 1607.
But because much of the original fort is buried underneath a Confederate earthwork called Fort Pocahontas, these discoveries forced a painful historical and archaeological trade-off. To reveal James Fort, nearly half of Fort Pocahontas has been removed.
In the process, invaluable traces of America’s founding have been discovered right next to remains from the Civil War. “It’s probably the only place you would have a story like that,” says Colin Campbell, president of Colonial Williamsburg, citing the conjunction of two pivotal moments in U.S. history. “I think it’s absolutely fascinating.” Read more.
One of Britain’s highest honors will be bestowed on William Kelso, Historic Jamestowne’s director of archaeology.
Kelso will become Honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), an honor awarded for especially inventive and celebrated contributions to the recipient’s field, according to a press release from Colonial Williamsburg.
Kelso led archaeologists in the discovery of over a million artifacts on Jamestown Island, including the location of the original 1607 fort that had been thought lost to the James River. The site includes the original fort, the later statehouse and other buildings. The most recent find is a church dating back to 1608 and was the wedding site of Chief Powhatan’s daughter, Pocahontas, and John Rolfe. Read more.
Archaeologists excavating at the site of America’s first permanent English colony on Jamestown Island in Virginia will tell you that even the smallest, microscopic artifacts recovered from the soil can tell you much about what life was like during the first years of the fledgling colony. So demonstrates Jamestown Rediscovery archaeologist Danny Schmidt through a newly released video. He shows how recently excavated soil from the colony’s first well (constructed some time before 1611) has been water-screened through an 8th-inch mesh screen onto a window mesh to reveal tiny objects that, together, have told a story about the lives and events of the first colonists.
The well, called “John Smith’s Well” after the famous colonist, was excavated by a team of archaeologists and students in 2009. The processing and analysis of the finds from the well, however, continue to this day. Read more.