"What started at Jamestown in 1607 changed the world."

Constructed soon after a January 1608 fire destroyed many of the first buildings at James Fort, the church measured 60 feet long and ranked as the fledging outpost's largest and most important structure.

Despite that size, its footprint eluded Kelso and his team for years, cloaked in the confusion of artifacts and archaeological features churned up by nearly 400 years of subsequent building, farmers' plows and the 1861 construction of a large Confederate earthwork.

The first clues to its survival appeared in early summer when students from the project's field school discovered a pair of unusually large rectangular stains hidden beneath a deep layer of modern fill near the fort's center.

Probing through the soil, the archaeologists found virtually no artifacts, brick or organic material, indicating a very early date in Jamestown's history. But they still didn't understand how the features could have survived the Civil War excavation that destroyed so much evidence in the middle of the settlement.

As they continued to excavate deeper, however, the secret of both the postholes' survival and their identity started to become clear.

"I've uncovered at least 150 post-built structures. And if this had been like any of those, it would have been stripped away. But these postholes are just so big and deep that they survived," Kelso said.

"This was a modern building — a frontier cathedral — with a large, open space inside — bigger than anything we've ever found."

Over the course of the summer, the team unearthed a pattern of equally spaced postholes that not only matched the 60-foot length of the church but also defined its chancel.

They also pinpointed the location of the altar where Pocahontas and John Rolfe were married in 1614.

"It's not like we have to say anymore that she was married someplace in Jamestown," Kelso says.

"Now we can point to the spot where she stood."