The bones of four of the earliest leaders of the English colony Jamestown, that would become America, were uncovered by archaeologists. The remains were buried for more than 400 years near the altar of America’s first Protestant church in Jamestown, Virginia.
The Jamestown Rediscovery archaeology team announced Tuesday the four burial sites are in the earthen floor of what was Jamestown’s historic Anglican church from 1608. This is the same church where Pocahontas famously married Englishman John Rolfe, leading to peace between the Powhatan Indians and colonists at the first permanent English settlement in America.
Artifacts buried with the colonial leaders, including a mysterious container for holy relics, were discovered with the human remains. The findings were revealed at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington. The museum is helping to identify those buried in the church. The burials were uncovered in 2013, but the scientific team wanted to identify its findings with some certainty before announcing the discovery.
“What we have discovered here in the earliest English church in America are four of the first leaders of America,” said historian James Horn, who is president of the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation. “There’s nothing like it anywhere else in this country.”
Remains of the Reverend Robert Hunt, the first Anglican minister in Jamestown; Capt. Gabriel Archer, an enemy of onetime colony leader John Smith; Sir Ferdinando Wainman, probably the first knight buried in America; and Captain William West, who died fighting the Powhatan Indians. The three other men probably died after brief illnesses. They were buried between 1608 and 1610, the archaeologists found.
“The things that we look at and can read from the bones are simply details that you’re not going to find in the history books,” said Douglas Owsley, a scientist at the Smithsonian. “These are men that you might not know their name. But these are men that were critical to who we are in terms of America today.”
Although the four leaders were not considered royalty, they were prominent figures in the early colonies. Horn compared the find to the 2012 discovery of the lost grave of King Richard III in England.