Researchers Discover 'Lost' Colonial Post of Jamestown RAIDERS OF THE LOST FORT
Peter N. Spotts, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor
With a charter from King James I, 104 artisans, craftsmen, and laborers boarded three small ships to establish England's first permanent foothold in the New World in 1607. They called it Jamestown.
Yesterday, researchers announced they have discovered the remains of the band's original fort along a river ridge in Virginia. It represents a major archaeological find. The discovery will yield important clues about a key development in North American history - and provide valuable information about early colonial life.
It puts Jamestown "absolutely at the top of the list of historic archaeological sites," says James Deetz, an archaeologist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Until now, "we've never had a look at the continent's initial English settlement." The find also represents a triumph of instinct over conventional wisdom. For decades, scientists assumed that what remained of the triangular fort had been lost - swallowed up long ago by the James River. But the perseverance and intuitions of a handful of researchers have now produced what many agree will be a unique window on America's past. Indeed, researchers at the site estimate that fully 80 percent of the area covered by the fort remains on dry land - and can be recovered. "This solves a mystery," says George Stuart, vice president for research and exploration at the National Geographic Society in Washington, which helped fund the effort. "They've located something that we thought was lost. And it gives tangible expression to a milestone in North American history." Yesterday's announcement caps two years of painstaking excavations marking the approach of Jamestown's 400th anniversary in 2007. Until 1994, the riverside plot on Jamestown Island, owned by the Association for the Protection of Virginia Antiquities, had never been the object of a major excavation, says APVA senior archaeologist Nick Luccketti. BUT from 1954 to 1956, the APVA allowed National Park Service archaeologists to dig test trenches to see what would turn up. The trenches yielded a number of 17th-century artifacts, giving the current team a clue that perhaps some of the original settlement hadn't been lost to the James River after all. Another clue came from the presence of Confederate earthworks in the area and, underneath those, Revolutionary War earthworks. These were built on a ridge within the APVA boundaries. …