The visitor walked over to the square of dirt that Jamestown Rediscovery staff archaeologist Dave Givens had just opened up for Jamestown Day.
“How are you?” he asked the Ohioan as she came to the square just south of the entrance of the 17th-century brick church tower.
“Curious!” she replied.
“Me too — that’s why I’m an archaeologist,” Givens said.
They had a nice chat about the two headstones he was digging around — headstones moved years ago from the Green Springs plantation site, where the bodies of the two people remain. But a few inches into the square, Givens had found only modern objects in the fill dirt.
“It’s fun. You find brick flecks from the 1907 church construction and gum and combs and flashbulbs …” he said.
Jamestown Day commemorates the day when the first English settlers landed on Jamestown Island: May 14, 1607. This year’s programming included musket demonstrations by the St. Maries Citty Militia, a historic blacksmith working inside James Fort, demonstrations of Native American life, and a new treasure hunt game for families called “Survivors: A Jamestown Adventure.”
There was also a live C-SPAN broadcast by the statue of Captain John Smith. For an hour, Jamestown Rediscovery Director of Archaeological Research William Kelso and Senior Archaeological Curator Bly Straube fielded questions from callers. Straube started the program by showing a piece of a European jar that had been unearthed from the fort site earlier that same day — another artifact to add to the 1.5 million already cleaned and cataloged in the past 18 years of the archaeological project.
“Wonderful things show up all the time,” Straube said as she held the fragment up to the camera. “It’s unique. We don’t have one exactly like this one, so I’ll have to do some research to find out who it’s depicting. It would be a bottle that would contain beer or wine.”
Later in the C-SPAN program Kelso told a caller about how today’s computers can easily make 3-D models of early James Fort buildings based on what the Jamestown Rediscovery team has found in the ground.
“It just boggles the mind. I started out with pencil and paper,” Kelso said. “It’s really astounding what we can do now. Without the computers we would be hard-pressed to keep track of all of these points of data.”
The C-SPAN program can be seen online at http://www.c-span.org/Events/Rediscovering-the-Jamestown-Settlement/10737430601-2/
One family spent a long time visiting Jamestown settler Anas Todkill, portrayed by Willie Balderson. He had the two sons closely examine the roots of a marshland plant that the Powhatan Indians called “tuckahoe” and ground into meal that could be made into flatcakes over a fire.
“You have to boil those roots three times! If you eat it as is, it burns your mouth,” he said. The boys passed on a taste test.
First grade teacher Gray Grandy was making her first visit to the original James Fort site. Her Norfolk classroom had a visit from a Jamestown speaker earlier this year, “But I wanted to be here. I wanted to see the actual site, not the reproductions,” Grandy said. “I’m from Florida, originally, and I don’t know much about the history here. I still thought the fort site was underwater.”
Her husband, Wiley, was born and raised in Norfolk but hadn’t been back to the island in the two decades since his own elementary school class visited. But it must have meant something: he majored in history at the University of Virginia.
“It’s great to be here today. When you come as a fourth-grader, a lot of it is lost on you. I wanted to get back and check it out. It sure has changed!” he said.
During the day, children played a new game called “Survivors: A Jamestown Adventure” that challenged them to spot natural features in the Pitch and Tar Swamp, count the number of cannons on the James Fort model, and sketch their favorite artifact in the Archaearium. Completing the puzzles in the game booklet got the kids a prize. Plans are to offer the game during the summer visitation season, beginning July 3.
Historic Jamestowne is jointly administered by the National Park Service and The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation (on behalf of Preservation Virginia) and preserves the original site of the first permanent English settlement in the New World.