JAMES CITY — Since pushing their first shovel into the ground 20 years ago, Jamestown archaeologists have rewritten the history of America’s first permanent English settlement numerous times, beginning with the 1996 discovery of the landmark fort that most people believed had been lost.
Now they’re probing the earth outside the perimeter of that iconic triangular citadel, searching for evidence of an early foothold that may have been much larger and more complex than many historians have thought.
Prompted by the previous discovery of two extensions to the palisade walls and the deliberate removal of an earlier wall — plus numerous questions raised by the settlers’ own records — Jamestown Rediscovery director William M. Kelso and his team are looking intently for any telltale stains that may have been left by outlying palisades and the dug-out bases of temporary soldiers’ tents as well as structures, wells and cultivated fields. Read more.
Archaeologists with the Jamestown Rediscovery Project are now exhibiting a representative sampling of the thousands of Native American artifacts they have uncovered over the past 20 years in or near the site of the 1607 James Fort remains on Jamestown Island, the site of the first successful English colony in North America.
Under the rubric, “The World of Pocahontas Unearthed”, the artifacts can now be seen artfully displayed in their own section within the relatively new Voorhees Archaearium, a large one-story copper-sheathed building that rests on pilings designed to protect the seventeenth century-archaeological features and artifacts that lie beneath. Read more.
It seems almost axiomatic that new technology is always an improvement on the old. But in the case of a discovery made by archaeologists at the excavation site of the 1607 James Fort on Jamestown Island, Virginia, evidence was uncovered that proves that, sometimes, the opposite is true.
In 2005, a complete jack-of-plates was uncovered from a soldier’s pit near the traces of a wall of the early fort. The jack-of plates was a piece of body armor, in appearance like a jacket, that provided protection through the use of many small overlapping plates, as many as 1,000, made of iron and sewn between layers of fabric. Read more.
Archaeologists excavating at Jamestown, Virginia, the site of America’s first successful English colony, have uncovered two deep posthole features 24 feet apart in the area of the 1607 James Fort, evidencing a possible structure that has not heretofore been discovered among the many finds and features that have already come to light at the historic excavation site.
A posthole in archaeology is a patch, usually circular, of darker or discolored earth that reveals the location of timber or a wood beam that was placed in the ground to support or define a structure that once existed at a site. Being organic, the timber or wood beam usually would have long decomposed, leaving a visible trace in the soil that archaeologists can recognize while excavating. Read more.
Archaeologists excavating at the site of Jamestown, the New World’s first successful English colony, have uncovered more features evidencing activity of the first English colonists who arrived on Jamestown Island, Virginia, more than 400 years ago.
Excavations in the churchyard of the 1907 Memorial Church have turned up about 70 feet of the now vanished historic James Fort palisade that defined an eastern extension of the Fort. Reports Dr. William M. Kelso, head of archaeological research at Historic Jamestowne: “The shape of this expansion also seems to be a mirror image of James Fort, where one angle of the triangle was 90 degrees and two were 45 degrees. So a bird’s eye view of the expanded fort might resemble a diamond shape.” Read more.
JAMESTOWN – Archaeologists at Historic Jamestowne have discovered the complete skeleton of a horse buried just yards from the 1639 church tower, probably some time after 1650.
Archaeologist Daniel Schmidt said Thursday that the horse was discovered as archaeologists excavated a palisade trench they believe represents an extension of the original triangular James Fort.
That trench was dug parallel to the church only a few yards away, and headed toward a gate though which most Historic Jamestowne visitors walk as they make their way from the visitor center. “To think, almost everyone who has visited Historic Jamestowne until this week has walked about a foot over this horse,” Schmidt said. Read more.
When archaeologists in Virginia uncovered the skeletal remains in 1996 of one of Jamestown’s first settlers — a young European male designated as JR102C in the catalog — they said he was the victim in what was perhaps Colonial America’s oldest unsolved murder.
At the time, archaeologist William Kelso, now director of archaeological research and interpretation at , reported that “the lead bullet and shot fragments lodged in his lower right leg contained enough force to fracture his tibia and fibula bones, rupturing a major artery below the knee. JR would have bled to death within minutes.”
Now, 17 years later, the forensic archaeologists at Jamestown may have identified the victim and, therefore, the perpetrator of the crime. Read more.
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.