Reputation of historic Jamestown colony gets a boost
November 27, 1999
JAMESTOWN, Virginia (CNN) -- Jamestown, the 17th century British colony that preceded the first Thanksgiving by some 13 years, may have been more significant than historians have thought.
New archeological finds at the nearly 400-year-old site have been prompting experts to reevaluate Jamestown's reputation as disorganized and unindustrious.
"There was a lot of activity here," said project director Dr. William Kelso. "And it wasn't just a settlement of rich gentlemen who were lazy and didn't work and didn't know how to exist in the wilderness," he said.
Kelso offered unearthed evidence including residue of glassmaking and American Indian pottery with traces of stew cooked with meat and corn.
"So the Indians were feeding the colonists," said Bly Straube, curator of Jamestown Rediscovery. "Trade was going back and forth. We're finding a lot of copper objects that the colonists themselves were making. They were making beads and pendants to trade for this food."
Project may restore historical stature
Experts predicted the project will restore the stature that post-Civil War historians would not accord the Southern settlement.
"Yes, they were prejudiced in favor of New England, and yes, they did give the South a raw deal," said history professor Allison Olson of the University of Maryland. "The balance is swinging now in the other direction."
Since Kelso discovered the original Jamestown site in 1994, teams have been digging up about 150 artifacts a day, including coins, rings, glassware and a tiny silver tool for removing earwax and tooth plaque. Other interesting finds have included four skeletons, one thought to be of a young English gentleman who had been shot in the leg.
Evidence of famine unearthed
More objects have been traced to a famine at Jamestown in the year 1609.
"They ate their horses," said Straube. "They cut them up into dainty squares. So we're finding all their horse equipment after the starving-time episode because they had no need of the material anymore."
The project eventually may reveal more buried historical treasure. Although some 300,000 objects have been found, Kelso said just a fraction of the entire site has been excavated.
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