"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
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
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
"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
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."
Newport News, Va., Daily Press
From the Daily
Press - 12/31/10 - "Pipes for the powerful of 1600s unearthed at Jamestown,
showing tobacco's weight in settlement":
AP Tobacco Writer
8:42 a.m. EST, December 31, 2010
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -
Jamestown have unearthed a trove of tobacco pipes personalized for a
who's who of early 17th century colonial and
British elites, underscoring the importance of tobacco to North
America's first permanent English settlement.
The white clay pipes — actually, castoffs likely rejected during
manufacturing — were crafted between 1608 and 1610 and bear the names of
English politicians, social leaders, explorers, officers of the Virginia
Company that financed the settlement and governors of the Virginia
colony. Archeologists also found equipment used to make the pipes.
Researchers believe the pipes recovered from a well in James Fort were
made to impress investors and the political elite with the financial
viability of the settlement. They are likely the rejects that failed to
survive the ceramic firing process in a kiln.
The find comprises
more than 100 pipes or fragments. More than a dozen are stamped with
diamond shapes and inscribed with the names or initials of luminaries
including explorer Sir Walter Raleigh, who dispatched the colonists to
the territory he named Virginia. He also is credited with popularizing
England and is said to have smoked a pipe just before being executed
for treason in 1618.
Other names include Capt. Samuel Argall, a major Virginia Company
investor and governor of Virginia; Sir Charles Howard, Lord High Admiral
of England; and Earl of
Southampton Henry Wriothesley, a Virginia Company official who was
William Shakespeare's major patron.
"It really brings the people back into the picture," said Bly Straube,
senior archaeological curator for the Jamestown Rediscovery Project. "We
have a lot of artifacts that we can associate with types of people like
gentleman or women or children, but to find things like the pipe that
bears the name Sir Walter Raleigh, I mean, my goodness. ... It just
makes it very tangible and real."
The discovery casts lights on the social, political and economic network
behind the Jamestown venture that started in 1607, as well as the
importance of tobacco to the settlement, said William Kelso, director of
archaeological research and interpretation at
Smoking imported tobacco was very popular in Europe in the early 17th
After settlers arrived at Jamestown, tobacco quickly became the American
colony's chief export. Among the immigrants Capt. Francis Nelson brought
to Jamestown in 1608 was Robert Cotton, a tobacco pipe maker who likely
fashioned the pipes found in the well.
In 1614, the first shipment of Virginia
tobacco was sold in London. Jamestown's tobacco exports to Europe grew
from 10 tons in 1619 to 750 tons in 1639.
"Tobacco, whose goodnesse mine own experience and triall induces me to
be such, that no country under the Sunne, may, or doth affoord more
pleasant, sweet and strong Tobacco, then I have tasted," Ralph Hamor, a
secretary of the colony, wrote in 1614. "I doubt not, (we) will make and
returne such Tobacco this yeere, that even England shall acknowledge the
Tobacco's popularity created a large demand for pipes that were
typically made in London using white clay from Dorset, along England's
southern coast. Interested in the lucrative new industry, investors in
the Virginia Company sought to add pipemaking to its trades and sought
out adequate clay from the surrounding area.
Settlers, Kelso said, were under "tremendous pressure" to give investors
the instant gratification they needed because "they put so much money
into it," and didn't want to lose their lifeline to England. Colonists
tried different trades such as silk making, glassmaking, lumber,
sassafras and tar, with no financial success.
"The whole idea was to make money for investors and they enlisted all
these specialists that would search Virginia for profitable resources
that they could exploit," Straube said. "Tobacco was the quickest and
easiest and most successful."
The survival of the pipes suggest that many more individualized pipes
may have been made for investors and other powerful members of the
17th-century British establishment. Their discovery also may lead to new
examination of thousands of other artifacts recovered at Jamestown for
further context on colonists' lives.
"Each new discovery has meaning beyond its own significance," Straube
said. "It can make us look at the past in a different way, and that's
kind of the exciting thing about these pipes."