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William Kelso
William Kelso
Locator map
  Year:
1994 to present

Place:
Jamestown, VA

Number of artifacts found:
More than 350,000

Previous excavations by others:
1897, 1901, 1903, 1934-37, 1955

Original colonists:
107 males arrived in 1607

Conventional Wisdom:
The fort disappeared into the river in the 18th century.

Reason for Kelso’s success:
“It was probably more hope and luck than anything else. We said, ‘We’re going to find the fort,’ and it happened.”

 
 
Learn More

History of Jamestown
Learn more about how the Virginia Company’s explorers established the first permanent English settlement on the banks of the James River in the midst of disease, famine, and conflict.

Virtual Jamestown
This interactive map highlights the 1608 voyages of John Smith in which he explored and mapped the Chesapeake Bay.

Colonial National Historical Park
Get in-depth information on some of 17th-century Jamestown’s most important personalities and discover the role that women and African Americans played in the success of the settlement.

Bibliography

Barbour, Philip L. Pocahontas and Her World. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1970.

Bridenbaugh, Carl. Jamestown: 1544-1699. Oxford University Press, 1980.

Morgan, Edmund S. American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia. W. W. Norton & Company, 1975.

 

Field Dispatch - Virginia



Tought Times at Jamestown
Photographs by Ira Block E-mail this page to a friend

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This Week’s Questions. Click on a question for a full response.

1.  

Is there a specific artifact you have uncovered that stands out in your mind as one of the most exciting?

  4.  

How many men were in the first expedition? What information do you know about them?

2.  

How much longer will the excavation last?

  5.  

I would like to help you out this summer by doing some volunteer work for you.

3.  

Have any burial sites been discovered that identified the occupants as slaves or native Indians?

  6.  

Was there any indication of who the people were that were buried there?

 




 
Question 1:

Is there a specific artifact you have uncovered that stands out in your mind as one of the most exciting?

Answer:

There are two artifacts that to me are especially significant, a finger ring and a tool made to erect forts. The ring is embossed with a displayed eagle, the official crest of the Strachey family. William Strachey became the official scribe of the colony after he had lived through a shipwreck near Bermuda on his way to Jamestown. He took an account of that wreck back to London, where Shakespeare could have read it and may have used it for the setting of his play The Tempest. This emphasizes to me the very early time period in which Jamestown was settled; that is, Shakespeare was alive and writing during the beginnings of America. The other artifact, an elongated iron hoe, proves the settlers knew the best tool to bring to make the small ditches that would anchor their upright log palisade fort walls, more evidence that at least some of the gentlemen and soldiers did know something about survival in the wilderness of Virginia.

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Question 2:

How much longer will the excavation last?

Answer:

In nine years only about half an acre of ground has been investigated in the estimated two-and-a-half-acre area encompassed by the fort. And there are other sites to look at near the fort and throughout the townsite. Significant research could go on for many decades, if not indefinitely.

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Question 3:

Have any burial sites been discovered that identified the occupants as slaves or native Indians? Where did these people live in relationship to James Fort ?

Answer:

Preliminary analysis indicates that all the burials found so far at Jamestown are European. The Virginia Indians lived in villages scattered along the major rivers, the closest village to Jamestown being Pasbehegh, six miles northwest. Slaves did not arrive in Virginia until 1619. No slave quarters have been identified by archaeology at Jamestown.

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Question 4:

How many men were in the first expedition? What information do you know about them?

Answer:

There were 144 men and boys who sailed from England, 108 settlers and 36 sailors. One hundred seven settlers reached Virginia alive, and 104 were alive when the boats went back home in July 1607. We know that about half the settlers were classified as gentlemen with the other half as craftsmen and laborers. They came from London and counties east and northeast of London and primarily. Many of them were related.

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Question 5:

I am a police officer in Pennsylvania. I would like to help you out this summer by doing some volunteer work for you. I am trying to find a career that I might enjoy pursuing professionally.

Answer:

Thank you. We take only trained volunteers and then very few. However, we have a six-week field school in June and July that trains volunteers and some have become paid crew after that. For information on the field school see our website at apva.org.

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Question 6:

Was there any indication of who the people were that were buried there?

Answer:

There were no tombstones or identification of that kind on any of the burials, so we cannot identify any of them. We can date the time of burial generally to the period 1607-1650 based upon the few artifacts buried with some and the location of the graves in relationship to the church site and a later state house site.

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