Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Time Team - Jamestown - America's birthplace

Jamestown - America's birthplace - A Time Team Special.

Over Christmas I have checked the T.V. schedules to plan some of my viewing, in between visiting and receiving visitors. One of the programs that caught my eye was on the Discovery Channel a Time Tram Special - Jamestown - America's Birthplace.

A very important piece in Ulster Scots History was the Forgotten Sir Thomas Smith Colony of the Ards + North Down in 1572, followed by the Hamilton + Montgomery Settlement of 1606. All this including the Jamestowne Settlement 1607, was part of the English Monarchy’s plans to expand their Empire and increase their wealth through Colonisation / Settlements!

Here is a piece about the program:-

Four hundred years ago, at the end of 1606, three ships set sail from what is now Virginia Quay in London. Five months later, on 14 May 1607, the 105 men on board the Discovery, Godspeed and Susan Constant arrived at the site on the east coast of America where they would establish the first permanent English settlement on that continent. They named it Jamestowne, after James I, who was king of England at the time.

Thirteen years before the Pilgrim Fathers set sail from Plymouth in the Mayflower, the Jamestown settlers were building a fort, church and houses on an island on the James River. They were to lose some of their number in clashes with native Indians and many more due to disease, largely caused by unhygienic water supplies. Twenty-five of them died in just four weeks and almost half of the original colonists were dead by the end of the settlement's first summer.

Persevere and Prosper. But those who survived persevered and eventually prospered. Despite various setbacks, by 1619 the colony was well enough established to set up the first representative assembly of settlers in what was to become the United States. The new crop of Virginian tobacco provided the basis for growing economic prosperity, and Jamestown became the capital of the expanding colony of Virginia.

In 1698, however, a fire devastated its government buildings and the Virginian capital was moved to Williamsburg. The original site of Jamestown, including its fort, church and other buildings, were abandoned and fell into decay. The modern town of Jamestown is located a couple of miles away.

For many years it was thought that nothing remained of the original settlement, and that the fort and other structures had been lost to the river. A tourist-oriented reconstruction of how the settlement might have looked was built, but little attention was paid to the archaeology of the site.

Jamestown Rediscovered. Some archaeologists, however, were convinced that they could locate remains of old Jamestown. Among them was Bill Kelso, who had nurtured a lifelong interest in finding the place where America was born.

In 1994 he got his chance, when the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities and the US National Parks Service, who jointly administer the site, set up an archaeological project to see what could be found out about old Jamestown. With the 400th anniversary of the settlement – and of America's birth – in mind, this long-running project has unearthed a huge amount of material. Not only were Bill Kelso and his colleagues able to locate the settlement, and demonstrate that it had not, after all, been submerged by the river, but they have turned up something like one million artifacts relating to the early settlers.

Stunning Finds. As Time Team discovered while filming this special, some of the finds have been stunning. For example, the waterlogged conditions at the foot of a large well have yielded some perfectly preserved finds from the early years of the settlement. Those discovered while Time Team was present include a young child's leather slipper, a halberd (a large axe blade and spike mounted on a long wooden shaft) and a hammer.

Unusually for an archaeological investigation, the extensive written records relating to the Jamestown settlers mean that it is possible to put names to the people who lived and died here – and in some cases even to link particular finds to particular individuals. Some of those links are purely speculative; others are based on solid evidence. In this program, Time Team helps to bring alive the personal stories behind the birthplace of America.


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