Looking Back, Moving Forward: Reinterpreting Jamestown through Archaeology, History, Science, and Technology

Part of: Society for Historical Archaeology 2017

Since the beginning of the Jamestown Rediscovery project in 1994, archaeologists have established the location of James Fort’s palisades, major buildings, and many significant features. The team has also recovered more than two million artifacts, many from tightly-dated contexts. The project has resulted in important new insights into the settlement’s early years and has cast doubt on many conventional interpretations of Jamestown's history. Even after two decades, archaeologists are still making significant discoveries, not just through the excavation process but also through the application of new methods not imaginable at the project’s start. Re-analysis of the extensive data, new scientific approaches, and cutting-edge technologies are opening new opportunities for re-examining previously-held assumptions and for exploring new questions. This session will present some examples of recent research projects expanding the frontiers of multi-disciplinary archaeology at James Fort and will also examine future directions for recording, presenting, studying, and interpreting the site.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-9 of 9)

  • Documents (9)

  • A Detailed Analysis of the Dentition of Jamestown’s First Settlers (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Martin Levin. D. Joshua Cohen. Barry Pass. David Givens. Michael Lavin.

    Archaeologists and an interdisciplinary team of researchers are studying the skull and dentition of a 15-year-old boy (1225B) who appears to have been the victim of a battle with Native Americans during the initial settlement at Jamestown in 1607. Specimens recovered from the boy’s teeth and jaws yield clues about diet and other aspects of daily life in the 17th century.Detailed study of the remains began with the morphological and temporal study of the skull and teeth using Cone-Beam computed...

  • Hidden Meaning: A Catholic Reliquary in an Anglican World (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Merry Outlaw.

    More than one hundred human burials have been excavated at Jamestown over the past 20 years, and thus far, few have contained grave goods.  The discovery of a small box on top of Captain Gabriel Archer’s coffin was, therefore, surprising to archaeologists.  Extensive scientific testing determined the box is silver and contains human bone and a lead ampulla.  It is a Catholic reliquary, a container to store holy relics—the bones of a saint, and a vial of holy water or blood of a saint.  This...

  • Holy Ground: The 1608 Church and Chancel Excavations at James Fort (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only David Givens.

    During the 2010 and 2013 field seasons, Jamestown Rediscovery archaeologists excavated the remains of the sites first substantial church (1608 – 1617) and the remains of four individuals buried within the chancel. The dimensions and location of this "pretty chapel" as noted by secretary of the colony William Strachey matched the post-in-ground structure found by Rediscovery archaeologists in 2010. Additionally, the location of the building closely aligns with a cross-like symbol drawn on a ca....

  • Leaving a Mark: An Analysis of Graphite at Jamestown (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Mary Anna R. Hartley.

    Excavations at the 1607 James Fort site have recovered several pieces of high-quality vein graphite not local to Virginia. Many examples were shaped for use as pencils, but the majority was brought to Jamestown as raw nodules.  Tight dating of the graphite found at Jamestown offers new insight into the form in which graphite was sold in London during the early 17th century and into early graphite pencil use. Drawing upon archaeological and documentary evidence, this paper examines the graphite’s...

  • Risk Assessment of Archaeological Sites Using Lidar: Sea level Rise Modeling at Jamestown Island, VA (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Robert Chartrand.

    Jamestown Island contains low-lying terrain with archaeological sites, known and unknown, threatened by sea level rise.  Using data acquired from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), a Digital Elevation Model (DEM) was created using a Light Detection and Ranging Remote Sensing technique (LIDAR) to identify cultural sites and assist in planning for cultural remediation. Four scenarios of sea level rise modeling were created based on historic trends and projected environmental events...

  • Secrets Stashed in Dental Impacta: Best Practices (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Linda Scott Cummings. R. A. Varney.

    Material from the root canal of a teen male from Jamestown was removed for study including microscopic analysis.  Examination of the material, transported on sealed slides to PaleoResearch Institute, yielded starches, fungal hyphae, pollen, and fibers.  Options for safe transport and transfer of materials to working microscope slides are discussed.  Principals of microscopy, including having no air in the working light path between the microscope slide and the coverslip, are important to...

  • Thinking Inside the Box: The Use of Micro CT for Archaeological Analysis (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Michael Lavin. David Givens.

    Modern science is helping to solve mysteries from 400 year old contexts at Jamestown. Micro Computed Tomography allows conservators and archaeologists to analyze artifacts in 3D without disturbing the integrity of the object. A high tech investigation was performed on a silver box, recovered from atop a coffin, which revealed the objects held within. Another artifact, metallic fringe, was discovered inside an anthropomorphic coffin. This object had been placed on the individual’s upper torso,...

  • Toward a 3D James Fort: The Opportunities for Digital Heritage at Jamestown (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Lisa E. Fischer.

    Digital technologies are creating new ways to record, interpret, and present archaeological data.  GIS and other technologies have long been part of the approach to field recording and data management for the Jamestown Rediscovery project, which has been ongoing since 1994. With approximately 80% of the original 3-sided fort excavated to date, the timing is opportune for exploring new approaches, like 3D modeling, for analyzing and interpreting James Fort. Creating 3D models of the site will...

  • You Can’t Tell a Book by its Hardware: An Examination of Book Hardware Recovered from James Fort (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Dan Gamble.

    Book Hardware was utilized both to protect books and to keep them closed.  Books typically do not survive in an archaeological context but the hardware does. This is the case at James Fort.  After over twenty years of excavations, more than one hundred of these artifacts have been recovered.  Book hardware consists of many materials, numerous designs, and varying sizes. But what can be gleaned from this hardware?  First, where they were made can be determined using XRF (X-Ray Fluorescence) and...