Thursday, October 27, 2016

A visit to Historic Jamestowne

Historic Jamestowne is administered by the National Park Service and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation on behalf of Preservation Virginia. It is the location of the original James Fort and Jamestown. Begin your visit at the Visitor Center where you can watch an orientation film and visit the museum. Try to arrive so that you can take the 11 a.m. archeological tour. It is one of the most popular tours that is offered at the site.

The actual site is quite a distance from the visitor center. You need to take a long footbridge to get to the monument which is where the regular ranger tours meet. We arrived in time to take the 1 p.m. orientation tour. Do take one of the tours, they are very informative and you will learn a lot about what has actually been discovered here.

A lot of walking is involved in a visit here and you need to be somewhat mobile. There are paved paths but within the palisade, it is rough going and uneven ground. The monumental statue of John Smith draws visitors like a magnet. This is an active archeological site so there will no doubt be actual work going on when you visit, new discoveries are being made all the time.

The original location of the chapel has been discovered and you can walk in the church that is on the site. Sites of graves have been marked around the property and the actual skeletal remains have been removed to the Nathalie P. and Alan M. Voorhees Archaearium.

After touring the palisade, walk over to the Dale House Café and enjoy lunch or a snack overlooking the James River. The food is surprisingly good, varied and not too pricey.

The Archaearium is outstanding. It holds the multitude of items that have been recovered on-site at Jamestowne. The range is unbelievable, from the practical to the little trinkets that people tend to save in their pocket. However, it is the skeletal remains that are the big draw. The biggest without a doubt is “Jane”.

The discovery of human bones in a trash pit along with other food sources, horse and dogs is considered significant. The skull and tibia showed signs of having been butchered. This was the first physical evidence of the cannibalism that had been reported during the “starving time”, the winter of 1609/10. The bones belong to a young girl, about 14 years old who was likely a servant. A recreation from the skull of what she would have looked like in life is located in the Archaearium.

Allow the better part of a day to enjoy everything that is offered here. The educational aspects are outstanding. You really will be standing and walking in the steps of the first English settlers in America and it is hard to describe how impactful this is.

Additionally, this is a very scenic area and there are a multitude of paths to enjoy the river views and if you are lucky, you may sight a bald eagle.

On your way in or out of the area stop at the Glasshouse of 1608 to see the artisans making glass which was one of the first industries that started in the area.

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