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Remains of original English colonial leaders found in Jamestown, Virginia

Ian Harvey

leadRemains of four important English colonial leaders have been found under the first Protestant church built in North America in Jamestown, Virginia. This church is famous in popular culture as being the site where the Englishman John Wolfe had married Pocahontas of the Powhatan tribe.

The remains had been buried for four hundred years and had been discovered in 2013. They have recently been identified as belonging to Reverend Robert Hunt, the first Anglican minister in the American colonies; Captain Gabriel Archer, a rival and detractor of Captain John Smith and an important leader on his own; Sir Ferdinando Wainman, the first European knight to be buried in the Americas; and Captain William West, an officer who was killed in a battle with the Powhatan tribe.

Along with the remains, several personal effects and religious artefacts have also been found in the graves.

Of these, the most surprising is a small silver box found on top of Captain Archer’s body. This box has been identified as a Catholic reliquary containing bone fragments and an ampulla that once contained holy water, blood, or oil.

This finding of a Catholic artefact in a prominent Protestant church has raised the possibility of Captain Archer being a secret Catholic or Spanish spy. During his lifetime, Catholicism was made illegal in England. According to another theory, this artefact could have simply been repurposed for use in the Protestant church.

William Kelso, the director of archaeology in Jamestown said, “It was a real kind of ah-ha moment for a lot of us. It was oh, religion was a big deal here, and that’s often overlooked.”

James Horn, president of the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation, added, “Everyone thinks that people came to Jamestown to find gold and go home and live happily ever after… But the Church of England had a strong role in the creation of an English America with the Protestant church acting as a bulwark against the Spanish and Catholic colonies to the south.”

Other artefacts include a leading staff found in Captain Archer’s coffin that indicated his military status. A piece of silver-edged sash was also found in the grave of Captain West. (Mail Online)

The research into the site is being led by the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation. They were able to unearth about thirty percent of the skeletal remains. They have used several methods, such as archaeology, chemical testing, skeletal analysis, genealogical research, and 3-D technology to identify the remains and learn more about the buried men.

It was found that these men had died during the “starving time,” a six-month period when the colony was on the brink of failure and had to face famine, illnesses, and constant clashes with local tribes. All three men other than Captain West, who had died in battle, are believed to have died due to disease. The Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation intends to continue the research and memorialise the men. They will soon put up the discovered artefacts on display.

Image Jamestown Rediscovery Archaeology