Jamestown, the English settlement that originated along the James River in present-day Virginia in 1607 has a great deal more history to tell. Believed to have been eroded into the river centuries ago, the fort at Jamestown was revealed by archeologists in 1994. The triangular shaped walls of the fort described in written accounts of those who occupied the colony so many years ago was the first discovery, one that many thought was only a coincidence, as the location was too close to the banks of the river and could not have possibly survived the years of erosion. As the dig continued, the triangular shape and layout could no longer be denied, it was indeed the fort of the Jamestown Colony of 1607.
Since the discovery, historians and archeologists have been uncovering the details of the colony. Near-by the dig-site are the reconstructed ships and fort of the Jamestown colony. Today, as they uncover artifacts and structures, the written accounts become reality. When they find that the reconstructed colony does not match the dig site, maybe a building is in the wrong location, they move and adjust the reconstructed site. Currently, they are in the midst of constructing a reproduction of the governor’s quarters, a large, two-story structure located next door to the church. During excavation, they unearthed high quality china, decorative buttons, and other artifacts that lend to the probability that the structure was occupied by someone of higher social status. The written accounts left behind by the colonists gave historians a good idea of the design and lay-out of the fort, but finding the actual remnants leave little room for debate on where and how the colonists lived.
The reconstructed Jamestown colony and Native American village provide opportunity for hands-on history like no other. Visitors young and old are allowed onto the recreated ships and throughout the village and fort. Unlike most museums, touching is not only allowed but highly encouraged. Kids can try on armor, haul some water, lie down on beds, and walk around in clothes similar to those that the colonists wore. All they ask at Jamestown is that “you put your toys back where you got them”. The experience is absolutely invaluable as kids not only get to see up-close how a musket is fired, but can touch just about anything they might question throughout the facility. The learning experience is one that not only stimulates all of the senses, but allows kids to learn though their own discovery. An absolutely outstanding learning experience is available to visitors of all ages.
The Powhatan people are descendents of the native inhabitants of what is now Virginia. Native peoples to the area date back 2,000 years, equivalent to the early civilizations of Chaco Canyon in the Southwest. With the arrival of the Europeans came changes for both the native peoples and Europeans. The cultural differences brought about both increased trade and conflict. The Europeans depended on the experience and knowledge of the natives and the Indians eventually became dependent upon European technology and guns. Miscommunication and mistrust led to conflict while at the same time acculturation led to many peaceful unions between the Indians and the Europeans. The infiltration of Europeans to native lands permanently altered both the physical and cultural landscape that the continent had known for centuries.
The Jamestown experience is not to be missed. As more and more of the original colony is uncovered, historians and archeologists will have even more about 1607 to share with the world. The experience is exciting and much like a mystery, unfolding at every turn. Jamestown…..to be continued!!!