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Jamestown skeletons identified as colony leaders

By Marilyn Scallan Epstein

A team of scientists used multiple lines of evidence, including archaeology, skeletal analyses, chemical testing, 3-D technology and genealogical research, to single out the names of the four men who died at Jamestown from 1608 through 1617. (Photo by Donald Hurlbert)

A team of scientists used multiple lines of evidence, including archaeology, skeletal analyses, chemical testing, 3-D technology and genealogical research, to single out the names of the four men who died at Jamestown from 1608 through 1617. (Photo by Donald E. Hurlbert)

Within the 1608 church where Pocahontas and John Rolfe married, the skeletal remains of four early settlers were uncovered during a 2013 archaeological dig at Virginia’s historic Jamestown colony. Now, those bones have been identified as some of the leaders of that first successful British attempt to forge a new life in the new world across the Atlantic.

Forensic anthropologist Douglas Owsley, the division head of physical anthropology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, and his team worked with archaeologists from the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation at Historic Jamestowne to piece together just who the four men were.

Built first of mud and wood, the original church structure had long since vanished. Archaeologists rediscovered the church’s original footprint five years ago.

Smithsonian forensic anthropologists Doug Owsley and Kari Bruwelheide and colleague Ashley McKeown examine the grave of Rev. Robert Hunt. (Photo by Donald Hurlbert)

Smithsonian forensic anthropologists Doug Owsley and Kari Bruwelheide and colleague Ashley McKeown examine the grave of Rev. Robert Hunt. (Photo by Donald Hurlbert)

Only about 30 percent of each skeleton was recovered, and the bones were poorly preserved, so finding out who the men were presented a challenge that required multiple paths of investigation.

The first clue to their identities came from the burial location in the chancel, a space at the front of the church around the altar reserved for the clergy. Only leading members of the community would have been buried there, so it was clear the men had a place of prominence among the colonists.

The research team then came up with a small list of prominent men who died between 1608 and 1617 and narrowed the list of potential candidates using the few surviving historical records. They tested the skeletons to determine their sex and approximate ages at death, sifted through detailed genealogies, examined diet through chemical testing and used high-resolution micro-CT scanning to reveal facts about the artifacts that were buried with the men.

The skeletal remains of the Rev. Robert Hunt, the first Anglican minister at Jamestown who served the colony until his death in 1608 around the age of 39. Hunt was buried without a coffin. (Photo by Donald E. Hurlbert)

The skeletal remains of the Rev. Robert Hunt, the first Anglican minister at Jamestown who served the colony until his death in 1608 around the age of 39. Hunt was buried without a coffin. (Photo by Donald E. Hurlbert)

Eventually, the team identified the men as:

  • Rev. Robert Hunt, the chaplain at Jamestown and the colony’s Anglican minister, who died at age 39 in 1608
  • Capt. Gabriel Archer, who died at age 34 in 1609 or 1610 during the “starving time”
  • Sir Ferdinando Wainman, who came to Jamestown with his first cousin, the governor of Virginia, and died at about age 34 in 1610
  • Capt. William West, who died in 1610 during a skirmish with the Powhatan at age 24
Capt. Gabriel Archer died in late 1609 or early 1610 at the age of 34 during the “starving time” at Jamestown, and was found buried with a captain’s leading staff and an enigmatic silver box. (Photo by Donald E. Hurlbert)

Capt. Gabriel Archer died in late 1609 or early 1610 at the age of 34 during the “starving time” at Jamestown, and was found buried with a captain’s leading staff and an enigmatic silver box. (Photo by Donald E. Hurlbert)

The men lived and died at a turning point in the history of the settlement—when it was on the brink of failure due to famine, disease and conflict. “The skeletons of these men help fill in the stories of their lives and contribute to existing knowledge about the early years at Jamestown,” Owsley says.

Capt. William West was killed in 1610 around the age of 24 during a skirmish with the Powhatan. He was found buried with the remnants of a military leader’s sash adorned with silver bullion fringe and spangles. (Photo by Donald E. Hurlbert)

Capt. William West was killed in 1610 around the age of 24 during a skirmish with the Powhatan. He was found buried with the remnants of a military leader’s sash adorned with silver bullion fringe and spangles. (Photo by Donald E. Hurlbert)

This discovery also comes at a critical time in Jamestown’s present history, as preservation of these materials is threatened by ongoing changes in the soil and water levels at the site. Jamestown is susceptible to sea-level rise, which some scientists predict could submerge the island by the end of the century.

A well-preserved silver box (shown before and after conservation) believed to be a Catholic reliquary resting on top of Capt. Gabriel Archer’s coffin was an unexpected find at the site of the 1608 Anglican church, suggesting that at least one of the colonists retained his Catholic faith, perhaps in secret. (Photo by Donald Hurlbert)

A well-preserved silver box (shown before and after conservation) believed to be a Catholic reliquary resting on top of Capt. Gabriel Archer’s coffin was an unexpected find at the site of the 1608 Anglican church, suggesting that at least one of the colonists retained his Catholic faith, perhaps in secret. (Photo by Donald E. Hurlbert)

Owsley’s career has been marked by many stories that anthropological discovery has brought to the world, including the examination of Kennewick Man, one of the oldest skeletons found in America, and evidence of cannibalism in Jamestown. Asked to describe the best part of his job, he says, “When it all becomes clear—the spectacular moments where you understand what’s going on.”

This scan of William West’s captain’s sash reveals it is likely made of silk and is adorned with silver bullion fringe and spangles. (Image courtesy Mark L. Riccio, Cornell BRC CT Imaging Facility)

This scan of William West’s captain’s sash reveals it is likely made of silk and is adorned with silver bullion fringe and spangles. (Image courtesy Mark L. Riccio, Cornell BRC CT Imaging Facility)

Owsley’s team, including physical anthropologist Kari Bruwelheide, Data Management Specialist Kathryn Barca and Scanning Electron Microscope Laboratory Manager Scott Whittaker, will continue to further document and conduct historical, archaeological and genetic research on the skeletons to better understand what life was like in the early 17th-century Chesapeake area.

The Smithsonian’s 3D Digitization Program Office scanned the excavation and archived the data so people anywhere can download and interact with the burial sites. Through their bones, these men’s stories live on.

The research team studied the unusual pattern of coffin nails from the graves and determined that Wainman and West were buried in uniquely styled anthropomorphic, or human-shaped, wooden coffins while Archer was buried in a hexagonal coffin. (Courtesy of Jamestown Rediscovery/Preservation Virginia)

The research team studied the unusual pattern of coffin nails from the graves and determined that Wainman and West were buried in uniquely styled anthropomorphic, or human-shaped, wooden coffins while Archer was buried in a hexagonal coffin. (Courtesy of Jamestown Rediscovery/Preservation Virginia)

 

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  • Claymor

    Why are they not all buried facing east? Is that a more recent custom?

  • LINDA STURGILL

    are you also related to the pace and poythress family that lived in Jamestown . my great up the line grandfather was francis poythress also Richard pace. jane poythress married Thomas rolfe pochantas and john rolfes son.

    • Tammy McCormick Trenary

      I am related to the Pace family. Richard Pace is my 10th g-grandfather.

  • potsy137

    I found that early in the Anglican history, people used the Catholic pieces used in worship.

  • Charles Baber

    I am presently reading a two volume set of the book “Old Virginia and Her Neighbors” by John Fiske copyrighted 1897. Among other things Volume I covers this exact period of time in the founding of Jamestown. Very interesting.

  • Lorraine B

    What were the “spangles” made of? I assume the are like sequins. They were knotted onto the the fringe?

    • texinthecity

      i would like to know, too! maybe thin pieces of shell or mother of pearl? or possibly metal?

    • stephen gredler

      i did assume the spangles were also made of silver…however much the writing indicates this, it would have been better if the author had been more accurate.

      • Lindsey Nicholls

        I think they may be made from tin, as silver tends to tarnish more. They were stamped out from the metal.

  • Antoine Manigan

    I want to do that when i grow up
    how do i find out what I have to do

  • Karen G.

    Amazing how clever these people are, thank-you for explaining how this great discovery unfolded.

  • Kristina S.

    Seems disrespectful to me. Couldn’t they have left them alone to rest in peace? Their bones were much more intact when they were in the ground. Looks as if the archaeologists smashed their bones trying to dig them up.

    • VaXpat

      KS, you must not be a Virginian! We may or may have soul, but our egos are immortal. I am certain that Robert’s, Gabriel’s, Ferdinando’s, and William’s egos are delighted. “Rest-in-peace”?? Not for us let her rip!!

    • Lorraine B

      They are already resting in heaven, we need to learn from their graves now.

    • Any coffins would have been made of wood, which would have decayed long ago. The article talks about the poor condition of the skeletons when found–it sounds as if time did more damage than archaeology.

  • Montanabear

    Archeology is a fascinating field. “Playing” in the dirt, breathing fresh air, diligently assembling an unknown puzzle and then playing Sherlock Holmes. I wish I had become one. Thank you for your work and the remarkable facts you shared with us.

  • Rick Whittaker

    As an Episcopal priest, the convention is that a body is brought into the church such that should the person sit up they would be facing they way they did in life: a priest has his head toward the apse and parishioners are head away. Two of these bodies are buried with head to the North. One is the priest. Why is the other oriented that way?

  • GrannyAnne

    I am so new to this set up that I’m a little overwhelmed. Some terms you use are unknown to me, so maybe I don’t belong to writing about history or science. I am familiar with genealogy and the process, currently searching a way to get info from an old CD with family history on it in Broderbund’s Family Tree Maker version 7 but took leave of absence during my husband’s acute leukemia treatment & death. Now the version is so old, my current PC will not recognize the version and has no info on what to do next. As they say, “Up a creek without a paddle”. By the way, my husband was of the line of Robert Warren, and Steven Hopkins, and others. Anybody got a solution for me?

    • Mary V. Thompson

      You can contact the company for help doing that. They were able to help me out with a similar problem.

      • Virginia Hanson

        Or you can contact a local computer repair business. They have staff who can access info on older file sources. Or they know another business who can access the info. Good luck.

  • richard

    William West is my 9th great grand uncle will his remains be properly buried after the scientific testing is competed?

    • Joshua Meyer

      if hes southern then no, not if liberal leftists get their hands on em 😛

      • Jim Barbee

        What in the world are you talking about, friend? That’s really uncalled for. Cut the political trolling and simply read the article and appreciate it.

    • didean

      William West is one of my ancestors, can I get a copy of any genealogical research notes, etc….
      Diane

      • richard

        I will share the information I have

    • Charlene

      Richard

      William West is also an ancestor. Can you contact me. My email is rcbjsp@yahoo.com I would love to share information.

    • chris petty

      I am pretty sure William West is an ancestor. I know I am related to Capt. Francis West of the ship Plantation. Will you contact me with any genealogical information you have. Thank You.

  • intrepidsoul

    Amazing that even that much survived so long, the bones. Dead at 24, 34, 39. So young.

    • Paige

      24 was pretty young. But 39 is hovering at the average life expectancy of that time. Most people didn’t live very long.

      • Actually, the low average life expectancy was due to the high mortality rate from childhood diseases. Most people died well before age 39 or well after.

  • Chuck Morey

    Grave Robbers

  • Jean Whitney

    If three were buried in coffins, why does the opening photo here show all 4 laying in dirt in the excavation/graves??

    • Jesse Leonard

      They have deteriorated.

    • Valerie Potter

      Rev Hunt was buried without a coffin (mentioned in the photo caption).

    • Richard Thomas

      Problem the only thing that remained of any of the coffins was organic material leaving its mark in the diet

    • Lisa Parker Stowell

      Because after hundreds of years the wood rotted away and the metal nails were all that remained.

  • Lee Williams

    Just wondering how some died of “starvation” during the Starvation Period. Being from England that is a Island where seafood was part of the routine diet and Jamestown on The Chesapeake Bay(Shellfish Bay) where oysters, clams and crabs were in abundance along with fish I find it astonishing anyone starved? Only Malaria and fighting w/ the natives would cause death I would think. Anyway, being a native of Portsmouth, Va where we took fieldtrips in school to Jamestown I find it amazing that 400 yrs later we are just now finding these remains while it makes one wonder how much was destroyed by construction etc. Simply fascinating seeing the remains of the first settlers before The USA was even a thought. Basically these are the fossils of whom started what is now called The USA. #VAmazing

    • Michael G

      Good point…This was also before humans really messed up the ocean and there were actually tons of fish to be caught too. Even today, I couldn’t imagine starving to death if I lived by the water.

      • Lee Williams

        exactly, during the colonial times one blue crab was enough to suffice two ppl they were so big

    • Jon DeAnda

      Maybe all 4 of them had catholic faith and did not want to eat the shell fish since the catholic bible says not to eat shell fish.

      Leviticus 11:9-12

      “These you may eat, of all that are in the waters. Everything in the waters that has fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the rivers, you may eat. But anything in the seas or the rivers that has not fins and scales, of the swarming creatures in the waters and of the living creatures that are in the waters, is detestable to you. You shall regard them as detestable; you shall not eat any of their flesh, and you shall detest their carcasses. Everything in the waters that has not fins and scales is detestable to you.

      • Valerie Potter

        Leviticus contains the Hebrew dietary law

      • Susan

        It is the Jews who don’t eat shellfish, Catholics eat shellfish and always have.

      • Lee Williams

        they were neither Catholic or Hebrew

      • CT_Resident

        We eat plenty of shellfish. The Catholic faith doesn’t have any dietary restrictions that are followed universally. Even not eating meat on Fridays during Lent is governed by the local Bishops. (Ours suspended it a couple of years ago, to allow everyone to enjoy corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day, when it fell on a Lenten Friday.)

    • Loraine DiCerbo

      The period of starvation was during the winter months of the first two years, when crop development and success was still sparse, and they didn’t have enough food to hold everyone through the winters.

      • Lee Williams

        I think ur synopsis is correct while it had nothing to do w/ religion like these other ppl are saying

    • Paumanok

      They were probably were more interested in finding gold, silver and sassafras and coerced the natives to supply them with food while they looked for treasure. That plan backfired and they starved.

    • Lisa Parker Stowell

      They didn’t have enough time to put food by for the winter and had basically run through what they brought with them. No time for crops etc. They had to build shelter. It was more a matter of bad timing along with some poor planning to some degree.

    • Aaron Green

      I visited the site over the weekend and the whole story is fascinating. As for the fishing /starvation based on the records they did not yet have the proper fishing equipment with them and the relationship with the Powhatan tribe was in shambles after the departure of John Smith. Therefore the tools were not available to help them reap the bountiful waters around.

    • DavidLouisa Gerber

      As a former docent in the Smithsonian’s exhibit on Jamestown, we were taught that in general terms 1. there was a drought, so crops failed 2. Indians were very hostile and tried to kill settlers every time they left the fort 3. the fort was/is located in a swampy, tidal area with brackish water, where possibly
      marine life would be less available.

      • Brianne

        Thank you for sharing that valuable/interesting information!

      • TJ

        Close, but not quite. The starvation had already begun long before the ‘shipwreck’ colonists arrived. There was an armada of ships from England with provisions for Jamestown that was caught up in a hurricane. All were lost except for the lead ship, Sea Venture, which was carrying the replacement Governor. They were shipwrecked at Bermuda for a year. Several months after they finally found their way to Jamestown, another ship arrived from Maine that was full of people and no supplies… This only added to the devastation that had been ongoing. Caleb Johnson has a good book titled “Here I Shall Die Ashore” that details this event.

  • Grogan Teri

    The Rev would of been placed in a casket, wonder who it really could be? Maybe a relative.

    • KT

      Remember this is the early 1600’s who knows what when on then.

    • Susan

      In the time it was buried it may well have pretty much disintegrated, wood doesn’t last long unless it is in water like The Mary Rose and a few Viking ships they have found.

    • DavidLouisa Gerber

      In those days it was common practice to be buried wrapped only in a shroud (burial cloth), unless you were very prominent, aristocratic people. Almost all of the colonists’ remains that have been found at Jamestown were not buried in a coffin.

  • Charity Jeannine Kurtyka

    salt… in the water and their only preservative.

  • Ron

    also their mission was to look for gold and for a northwest passage to the far east (believing the continent was not wide); this left them little time to look after their own survival

    • They didn’t know how to survive well and had a cast system where the wealthy who had come for more wealth would not work – at first. It was hard to get crops going because of indian threats. It was Newport who saved the colony with supplies and @250-300 more colonists in 2010 one of whom was my ancestor, an indentured servant.

      • Linda Thornburg

        My name is Linda Thornburg and my GGG…Grandfather is:Christopher,Capt. Newport 11th great grandfatherBirth 1563 in Boynton, Yorkshire, EnglandDeath 1616 in Bantam, Indonesia
        Christopher,Capt. Newport (1563 – 1616)
        is your 11th great grandfather
        Marian Newporte (1615 – 1646)
        daughter of Christopher,Capt. Newport
        Edward Hatcher (1633 – 1711)
        son of Marian Newporte
        Jane Hatcher (1640 – 1710)
        daughter of Edward Hatcher
        REBECCA MARY BAUGH (1667 – 1731)
        daughter of Jane Hatcher
        JOHN SR COX (1703 – 1764)
        son of REBECCA MARY BAUGH
        Delita Cox (1730 – 1800)
        daughter of JOHN SR COX
        Robert Chandler (1763 – 1843)
        son of Delita Cox
        William Chandler (1790 – 1860)
        son of Robert Chandler
        Mary Ellen Chandler (1822 – 1895)
        daughter of William Chandler
        John Henry Young (1847 – 1920)
        son of Mary Ellen Chandler
        Martha Ellen Young (1878 – 1964)
        daughter of John Henry Young
        Ellery Marvin Thornburg (1904 – 1976)
        son of Martha Ellen Young
        Linda Lee Thornburg

        • Linda Thornburg

          I also have many sets of gggg…grandparents who were first arrivals at Jamestown

          • sister

            sorry, CHANDLER”S

        • sister

          if you are doing genealogy: there are lots of them in Ga and Ala…

  • deAnna Rice

    Sure would be nice if Science called Turtle Island by its correct name and not “the new world” Its been pretty old of all us indigenous members for centuries. The least ‘science’ could do is acknowledge what they know is true.

  • EJ

    Yes, Cathy…the sweet Powhatan definitely and intentionally held them up in the fort, knowing they’d starve them out. Kind of like a genocide. Many of the settlers would get wiped out if they strayed too far at certain points in the history. If I remember correctly, this often happened at different points through the settlement’s history. It also happened in response to settler aggression at certain points.

    • Dianne Wade

      EJ, what you don’t understand is that when people from a different world came to America they tried to change the Indians and forced them to leave their own settlements…….so I wouldn’t feel so sorry for these people that stole from my ancestors……….yes, I am a descendent of the Powhatan tribe and Pocahantas was my so many great aunts.

      • EJ

        The English weren’t as bad as the Spanish; that’s for sure. There were many legitimate attempts to work with the local tribes near Jamestown. The natives there weren’t wall flowers. They knew exactly how to leverage their home court advantage. Why paint your own people as docile and weak? Powhatan was clever and coniving like any other leader. There was barbarism on both sides. Not all land was stolen, btw. The local Indians didn’t mind working with the English when it benefited them, and even turning them onto enemy tribes. I am not disagreeing that it was a shame how things ended up. I am arguing that your tribe wasn’t meek and deserves to be treated in history as equals with the English. The whole argument that native american “our land” was stolen just doesn’t hold up until much later in American history.

        Your tribe had a warrior based system that conquered and assimilated over thirty other tribes. I just find it hard to swallow that it’s ok for natives to conquer each other, and yet they maintain some native integrity. However, the English come along and they try to grow their settlement, and now we’re looking at genocide and cultural genocide. This was the time for Europeans, and different tribes had been doing it to each other for 1000 + years.

        Pocohontas was captured during open rebellion between to the two sides, where many English were captured. She willingly decided to stay with the English when her father wanted more swords, shields. Why aren’t you angry at this immoral behavior? This was a barbaric time.

        I think the settlers couldn’t communicate very well with locals because of the language and different values system. However, the English quickly recognized that they were dealing with a warrior based system where only strength is respected in the end. I can’t understand how this point is lost on people. It just so happens that the English had the population and technology to do what the Powhatan tribe was already doing to other tibes. What am I missing?

    • Jack Froste

      kind of like the English intentionally giving Native Americans blankets with diseases to wipe them out? Is that the Genocide you were talking about E.J or the ones you failed to mention?

      • EJ

        How many times was small pox used in that period with blankets in particular? Would you like to put this tactic in the context of global military history or should we isolate it or bandy it around? There are many instances of Indian attack on Spanish. If I my ancestors were Indian, I wouldn’t want to be condescended and placated to by those who killed my people. Indians were largely warrior tribes who understood strength, imperialism, and tribal/ethnic cleansing.
        I don’t disagree with your view that Indians were subject to brutality, murder, rape, subjugation, etc. I disagree with the premise that there’s something historically unique about it. Indians were NOT peace loving, nature worshippers like revisionist history today portrays. We can’t even use the term native American or Indian as any type of collective term. Just like we can’t say ALL English used small pox with military blankets as a military tactic. These tribes from what I can tell had many brave warriors. They understood strength, and relegating them to the meek, helpless pile of history is to shame them. They were never subjects, which I respect, but they weren’t docile, “noble savages”, either. The settlers had population, technology, and more unintentional disease transmission, than intentional.

  • Cathy Townsend

    I’ve never understood why the colonists were starving. If nothing else, the James River is full of fish right out the door of the fort. Were they trapped inside the fort by the Powhatan and just couldn’t even get out to fish? I have the impression that these colonists were pretty clueless how to survive, but perhaps I don’t understand what their situation was.

    • Cyn Bailey

      @cathytownsend:disqus : I’ve been to the historic site several times, but it’s been almost 10 years since the last visit. If I remember correctly, there was a serious drought for a few years around the time they arrived. This made the James River brackish, which would’ve been inhospitable to many freshwater and salt water fish.

      • Cyn Bailey

        But I also remember that you were right and the settlers were “clueless.” They were not prepared for life here at all and had very little in the way of survival training or skills. AND they quickly made enemies of the Powhatan because the colonists would steal from the Powhatan despite the native tribe’s generosity. The colonists justified this by believing that the Powhatan were “inferior savages.”

        • Singletary Boe

          LOL it’s fantasy time at Cyn Bailey’s house!

          • Tracy A. Summers Branigan

            Why do you say that?

          • AWomanWithABrain

            Name calling with no factual evidence. Maybe the fantasy is at your house (and you don’t even realize it)! 🙂

          • nocebo3

            Which part is “fantasy” – and why?

        • Cathy Townsend

          Perhaps a drought coupled with hostilities with the Powhatan played a role in the Starving Times. I still have an impression that the colonists were knuckleheads who were astonishingly unprepared for life in the New World. It seems they were dependent for years on getting basic supplies from England or handouts from the locals. They couldn’t fish, couldn’t collect shellfish, couldn’t hunt, couldn’t farm … what could they do? I’m surprised that rickety-assed “fort” could keep the Indians from running them off whenever they tired of their constant bitchin’ and prayin’ and beggin’ and preachin’. They just strike me as an incompetent bunch with no business here.

        • tgramful

          If you are related to Temperance Bailey, we are cousins!

        • Matt Greene

          You think you can just make up claims of racism out of nowhere? Lol. I guess that’s the world we live in today. Little survival training or skills? You’ve got to be kidding. These people were some of the toughest, bravest and most adventuresome people to ever walk the earth. Have a little respect.

      • dogearedcopy

        From the NPS Hiistoric Jamestowne site:

        “QUESTION: Why didn’t the English fish during the “Starving Time?”

        ANSWER: There are several possible reasons: if the local Powhatan Indians had helped them build fishing weirs to catch fish the English were unable to repair them, plus were afraid to leave the protection of the fort at all for fear of being killed by the Powhatan Indians; the changing nature of the James River meant different types of fish were around at different times of the year; the long, severe drought impacted the number and type of fish in the river; and it could be the fact that so many were sick, they were simply too weak to do any fishing.”

    • Denise W

      The “Starving Time” also mainly occurred during that winter between 1609 and 1610. The colonists had angered the local Powhatan when their food supplies ran low, and had stolen some grain the Powhatan badly needed for their own people to survive during the winter. In retaliation, native attacks increased whenever a colonist, or group of colonists, was sent outside the fort to hunt or fish. Inside the fort, they first resorted to eating any small animals that remained (think dogs, rats, etc.) and eventually resorted to eating the humans themselves that died. They researched the bones found in pits (old wells) when they made this discovery. So yes, it was possible to starve with all that bounty in the water, deer in the forest, etc.

  • DW

    How were the burial dates narrowed down ? Why would the parish priest be buried without a coffin? He held a prominent position in the community.

    • mystyk163

      They Googled it..

  • Herstorian Byrd

    The reliquary box couldn’t have been placed with his coffin if he was a Catholic practicing in secret. Someone had to know. Also the London Company may have had many Catholics leaving England since the requirement to join was money, is that not true?

    • Kathy Hermes

      George Percy, a fellow colonist, was the son of the Earl of Northumberland, a Catholic conspirator. This Catholic artifact makes one wonder about Catholicism among the early settlers. Were Percy and Archer Papists?

      • Lisa D Walker

        with regards to Catholicism in history, *nothing* surprises me anymore….

    • The colonists were worried about Catholic conspirators who would tell the Spanish what gold the Jamestown settler had discovered. Not to be. However I question that the reliquary was Catholic, and/or used for Catholic items. Anyone discovered saying a rosary in Jamestown would have been put in the stocks. When moving and traveling on boats small items are needed, this box may have fit the bill for other uses.

      • Jljlmjlmn_Prprsprst

        Again, a relic is not anything close to being exclusive to papists.

        J.P.

    • Jljlmjlmn_Prprsprst

      Mr Byrd,

      Anglicans have used relics too, so this article’s speculation is unwarranted.

      J.P.