Jamestowne

What is the real Jamestowne?

Growing up I still remember visiting Jamestowne, amazed by the costumes and ships and Native American villages. Like most elementary school children, I was taught that the colonists sailed over from England, built little houses and learned to plant corn from the native Americans. Returning to the ‘fake Jamestowne’ yesterday, it was mostly how I remembered it. Of course I could take in, ask questions and understand some of the hardships better than ten years ago, but the tourist site still skimmed over the intense, difficult and controversial topics that we would rather ignore. Until a few weeks ago I didn’t even know there was a ‘fake vs. real’ Jamestowne.

As we entered the ‘real Jamestowne’ today you could immediately tell it was different. There were still tours and gift shops and a museum but there were no actors. As we walked around the site we were watching archaeologists do their jobs like they would anywhere else, but they also gave tours. They lived and breathed this fort, not just as a job, not acting, but as their passion and interest.

There was no fake fort set up, only an outlining fence and the skeleton of one building. While I thought this would make it more difficult to create a picture in my mind, it actually had the opposite affect. Seeing just the outline of the fort, and knowing about the millions of artifacts that were pulled out of the dirt and grass under my feet was almost surreal. Instead of a picture being drawn for me, I could create my own in my mind, pulling together all that I had learned thus far. It was almost haunting to watch the struggles, death and life that were being uncovered from the soil where these people lived.

The most haunting of the stories was that of Jayne. Our tour guide spoke of the chills she experienced when she uncovered the jaw of this young girl. After finding the skull and shin bone, the archeologists began to piece together the death of the girl, commonly known as Jayne, who was a victim of cannibolism in the Jamestowne settlement. While her death is known, her life is still composed of a series of questions. One primary source speaks of a story of a young woman who is killed by her husband and eaten by him. Shortly after the settlers found out about his crime he was sentenced to death. No evidence has been found to prove or disprove whether this primary source is the story of Jayne so we are left to wonder what happened to this young woman. The archaeologists are trying to uncover answers to the multitude of questions that accompany this find. Why is the skull and shin separated from the rest of the body? Was she killed to be eaten or did she first die of other causes? What was her short life like? Her story, and its missing pieces, left us all with chills.

They had found so much on this site but just as exciting is wondering what is left to find.
What is left under the ground we walked on and what is under the surface of the fifteen percent of the original fort that is now under water?
What stories are left to be told?

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