Tag Archives: Jamestown

Four skeletons at Jamestown identified

Archeologists have now linked four recently discovered skeletons at the first British North American settlement at Jamestown with historic individuals among the first settlers.

Skeletal remains buried beneath a historic church in Jamestown, Virginia, belonged to four prominent settlers of North America’s first English colony. The group included a minister, two military captains and the first English knight ever buried on the continent, a research team announced on 28 July at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC. “These men witnessed the first three years of the establishment of the colony,” said James Horn, the president of the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation.

Smithsonian anthropologists teamed up with archaeologists at Jamestown Rediscovery to identify the four incomplete skeletons, which were excavated in 2013. First, the researchers narrowed down the potential candidates by analysing a handful of surviving documents from the colony’s early years. Then they used chemical tests, genealogical records, digital analysis of bones and artefacts and contextual clues to make the final identifications.

Having studied the history of Jamestown in great detail for my own masters degree, I can say that this scientific work is spectacular. I would add that I hope that the researchers, having identified these remains, will now allow them to be buried again in peace.

If you want to be amused, you can also read Science’s short article on this discovery. As is typical of that politically driven journal, the article feels compelled to insert a comment about global warming, even though it has nothing to do with this particular research and the claim — that “some scientists think Jamestown (on the Virginia coast) could be overtaken by rising sea levels by the end of this century” — has not yet been proven and is in fact a very speculative assertion.

A close study of human bones recently uncovered from Jamestown’s early “Starving Time” have revealed evidence of cannibalism.

A close study of human bones recently uncovered from Jamestown’s early “Starving Time” have revealed evidence of cannibalism.

This really isn’t news, since we have always had firsthand accounts suggesting cannibalism during that terrible winter of 1609. It is, however, the first empirical proof of that cannibalism.