Smithsonian and Jamestown Rediscovery Partner to Reveal Identities of Four Lost Leaders of Jamestown
These people, Rev. Robert Hunt, Capt. Gabriel Archer, Sir Ferdinando Wainman and Capt. William West, were high-status leaders who helped shape the future of America during the initial phase of the Jamestown colony.
After being lost to history for more than 400 years, their discovery reveals new clues about life, death and the importance of religion in one of England’s most critical settlements. It also illustrates how modern tools can be applied to historic investigations to aid in personal identification.
To determine the men’s identities from the unearthed bones, Smithsonian forensic anthropologist Douglas Owsley and his team worked with archaeologists from Jamestown Rediscovery. They used multiple lines of evidence, including archaeology, skeletal analyses, chemical testing, 3-D technology and genealogical research, to single out the names of the four men from dozens of English colonists who died at Jamestown from 1608 through 1617, when the church fell into disrepair.
“With the discovery of four burials in the chancel of the church, we looked forward to the challenge of identifying these individuals by name,” said Owsley, division head of physical anthropology at the National Museum of Natural History. “The skeletons of these men help fill in the stories of their lives and contribute to existing knowledge about the early years at Jamestown.”
The men lived and died at a turning point in the history of the settlement—when it was on the brink of failure due to famine, disease and conflict.
“This is an extraordinary discovery,” said James Horn, president of Jamestown Rediscovery. “Two of the men, Archer and Hunt, were with the first expedition, which established Jamestown in May 1607. And the other two, Wainman and West, arrived with Lord De La Warr and helped save the colony three years later. These men were among the first founders of English America.”
The skeletons and archaeological materials were found beneath the chancel area of Jamestown’s 1608 church at the front of the structure where a communion table would have been located and where only elite members of the community would have been buried.
Archaeologists investigated the four burials in November 2013 and partnered with the Smithsonian to identify the remains. The research team first relied on the few surviving historical records from the colony’s initial years and narrowed the list of potential candidates to a small number of prominent men who died between 1608 and 1617. The bones were poorly preserved, with only about 30 percent of each skeleton recovered, but the research team determined the sex of the individuals and their approximate ages at death. The team also conducted chemical analyses to examine diet, the presence of heavy metals and the origins of the individuals. This information, paired with the style of coffins and associated artifacts found at the site, led the scientists to match this set of remains to the following four men:
Rev. Robert Hunt
Rev. Robert Hunt was born in 1569 and died in 1608 around the age of 39. He was the first Anglican minister at Jamestown and served the colony until his death. The research team identified him by his age and style of burial: he was buried in a simple shroud with no coffin facing the people he served, his congregation.
Capt. Gabriel Archer
Capt. Gabriel Archer was born in 1575 and died in late 1609 or early 1610 at the age of 34 during the “starving time,” a six-month period during which approximately 250 settlers perished at Jamestown from disease, starvation and Indian attacks. His journal entries indicate that he helped lead some of the earliest expeditions in the Jamestown colony and was a nemesis of Capt. John Smith. Archer’s remains were suspected when archaeologists discovered remnants of a coffin and captain’s leading staff with the bones. The team also found a small, well-preserved silver box resting on top of Archer’s coffin. Extensive high-resolution CT scans of the sealed box revealed that it is likely a Catholic reliquary encapsulating seven fragments of bone and two pieces of a lead ampulla, a container used to hold holy water. Religion played a prominent role at Jamestown, and many efforts were made to convert the neighboring Powhatan tribes to the Anglican Church. The presence of the reliquary, however, suggests that at least one of the colonists retained his Catholic faith, perhaps in secret.
Sir Ferdinando Wainman (Weyman)
Sir Ferdinando Wainman (sometimes spelled “Weyman” in historic documents) was born in 1576 and died in 1610 at about age 34 after arriving at Jamestown with his first cousin and governor of Virginia, Sir Thomas West, also known as Lord De La Warr. Genealogical records indicate that Wainman was the first English knight buried in America. Chemical testing of his bones showed he was exposed to more lead in his life than the other three men, suggesting affluence. Lead was present in pewter and glazed wares, items more accessible to the wealthy. The research team also studied the unusual pattern of coffin nails from the grave and determined that Wainman was buried in a uniquely styled anthropomorphic, or human-shaped, wooden coffin.
Capt. William West
Capt. William West was born in 1585 and killed in 1610 around the age of 24 during a skirmish with the Powhatan. He was the young uncle of Lord De La Warr and like his relative, Wainman, had high lead levels in his bone. Coffin nails in his grave indicate he, too, was buried in an anthropomorphic coffin. West’s high status at Jamestown was affirmed when the research team used a micro-CT scan to reveal highly decayed remnants of a military leader’s sash in a block of surrounding soil. The cloth is likely silk and is adorned with silver bullion fringe and spangles.
“Other than in the graves of the wealthy and well born, it is extremely rare to find artifacts in English burials of this period,” said William Kelso, director of archaeology at Jamestown Rediscovery. “The presence of the artifacts and the location of the graves in the church’s most sacred space, the chancel, both indicate the high status of the four men and their importance to the early history of the Jamestown venture.”
The examination of the skeletal remains and artifacts comes at a critical time in Jamestown’s history, as preservation of these materials is threatened by ongoing changes in the soil and water levels at the site. Jamestown is susceptible to sea-level rise, which some scientists predict could submerge the island by the end of the century.
Smithsonian anthropologist Owsley and his team have worked closely with Jamestown Rediscovery archaeologists since 1996, examining skeletal remains in an effort to better understand the lives of the first colonists in the Chesapeake. Continued study of the skeletons will involve genetic testing to better understand the familial relationship between Wainman and West. Further historical and archaeological work is also underway to discover additional information about the four men’s experiences before arriving in Virginia, the significance and sacred meaning of the silver box and the importance of religion in early Jamestown.
The Smithsonian’s 3D Digitization Program Office, in collaboration with Jamestown Rediscovery, conducted detailed scans of the burial sites and has archived the digital data, which is available at 3d.si.edu. There, anyone can download or interact with 3-D models of the chancel burial ground, the four graves and Archer’s silver box; look at a collection of high-resolution field photos and videos; or take interactive 3-D tours of the site. 3-D technology is playing an increasingly important role in archaeology and forensic anthropology.
An accurate and measurable record of these burials as they lay in the ground not only preserves critical information for research, but also tells the story of North American history in a way never before possible.
This discovery was made possible thanks to several important partners. Ancestry.com provided genealogical research support. GE and Cornell University provided access to CT scanning facilities, and Micro Photonics Inc. scanned and modeled the contents of the silver box. Autodesk Inc. processed the 3-D scan data of the excavation.
A joint appeal to Prime Minster David Cameron from the UK and Egyptian Campaigns to Save Sekhemka.
On 10 July 2014 the statue of the Ancient Egyptian civil servant Sekhemka, one of the jewels of Egyptian and World Art was sold to an anonymous buyer at Christie’s in London for £15.76 million. The sale of this irreplaceable part of the museum collection held in care for the public by Northampton Council was opposed by the Arts Council, the Museums Association, the Art Fund, and the International Council of Museums, as well as local people in Northampton .
In just two days, on July 29 2015, a temporary export ban, placed on the statue by Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, will expire and the buyer will be free to obtain an export licence and send Sekhemka anywhere in the world, possibly never to be seen in public again.
One of the principal reason for the international opposition to the sale was the increasing evidence that such sales benefit no-one except the international auction houses who see their profits increase and international terrorists and criminal gangs who in part fund their activities by trafficking and selling art and archaeological artifacts like the statue of Sekhemka. If auction house prices rise, so do the profits of the criminal and terrorist traffickers and forgers.
However, it is still not too late for you to turn Britain’s shame in being party to such an unethical sale into pride at Britain working with the Egyptian people to make amends for this indelible stain on Britain’s cultural reputation.
We are asking you to make an urgent public intervention with Christie’s and the buyer of the Sekhemka statue and ask the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to broker a binding agreement whereby the statue remains in the UK on free public display in a British museum.
We are also asking you to make clear that you deplore the sale of publicly held museum collections for profit in a way which can only drive up the prices and the rewards for such unethical behaviour.
The only thing preventing such an intervention is the apparent unwillingness of the British Government to be seen to do the right thing. While your intervention will not just preserve a beautiful and uniquely evocative example of Egypt’s ancient art and culture for the public and visitors to Britain to enjoy.
It will send a message that Britain cares about the cultural jewels it has in its care and will not in future allow them to be exploited for short term gain in a way which only encourages criminals, traffickers and terrorists to set out to loot and to sell still more of the irreplaceable culture we share.Follow the campaign on facebook : Click Here
The findings are some of the strongest evidence yet refuting the prevailing idea that the ancestors of early plants got the red light sensors that helped them move from water to land by engulfing light-sensing bacteria, the researchers say.
The results appear online in Nature Communications.
“Much like we see the world through our eyes, plants ‘see’ the world through light-sensitive proteins in their leaves called photoreceptors,” said Duke postdoctoral researcher Fay-Wei Li.
Photoreceptors monitor changes in the direction, intensity, duration and wavelength of light shining on a plant, and send signals that tell plants when to sprout, when to blossom, and how to bend or stretch to avoid being shaded by their neighbors.
“Light is what gives plants the energy they need to survive,” Li said. “But light is constantly changing with the time of day and the seasons and the surrounding vegetation. Photoreceptors help plants determine if it’s summer or winter, or if they’re under the canopy or out in the open.”
A group of photoreceptor proteins called phytochromes enable plants to detect and absorb light in the red and far-red regions of the light spectrum, the main wavelengths of light that plants use for photosynthesis.
Just 20 years ago, researchers discovered that plants weren’t the only living things with phytochromes. Thanks to DNA sequencing, scientists started uncovering similar genes in cyanobacteria, tiny green bacteria that live in oceans, rivers and streams.
Based on the striking similarities between the phytochrome genes in plants and cyanobacteria, scientists proposed that plants acquired their phytochromes millions of years ago by engulfing cyanobacteria that were living independently.
Instead of digesting them, the theory goes, the plant ancestors supplied a safe home for the cyanobacteria to grow, and the cyanobacteria supplied their light-harvesting machinery to help capture energy from the sun, until the two grew dependent upon one another and eventually joined together to become permanent partners.
The idea is a widely accepted explanation for the origin of chloroplasts, the organelles in plant cells that convert sunlight to food.
But in more recent years researchers have also discovered phytochrome genes in bacteria, fungi and some algae, which got them thinking again: “Where did plant phytochromes come from?” Li said.
To find out, Li and Kathleen Pryer of Duke and Sarah Matthews of Harvard scoured existing databases and analyzed 300 DNA and RNA sequences from the phytochrome proteins of a wide range of algae and land plants, including ferns, mosses, liverworts, hornworts, green algae, red algae, kelp, diatoms and other green blobs commonly found in ocean plankton.
By calculating the similarities between the sequences, the researchers were able to reconstruct the genetic changes that these red light sensors underwent as they were passed from one lineage to the next.
Plant phytochromes turned out to be more closely related to algae than cyanobacteria, consistent with suspicions that earlier ideas about their bacterial origins may not be right after all.
The researchers also found a surprisingly diverse array of phytochromes in green algae, which could help scientists better understand how plants transitioned from life in the water to life on land.
Plants are generally thought to have colonized land more than 400 million years ago, when pioneering green algae — perhaps living at the edges of freshwater pools — managed to survive when water levels dropped on shore.
The previously unknown diversity of phytochromes in green algae suggests that the aquatic and semi-aquatic ancestors of early plants could absorb and use wavelengths of light that modern land plants can’t “see.”
“The first ancestral algae to move onto land would have faced a very different light environment than they experienced in the water — a lot more light, and in different wavelengths,” Li said. “Photoreceptors played a key role in helping plants adapt to these changing light conditions.”
The research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, was conducted by Kirstin Brink, a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Biology at UTM; Professor Robert Reisz of the Department of Biology and the UTM vice-principal of graduate studies; and colleagues at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and the National Synchrotron Radiation Research Center in Taiwan.
Brink and her colleagues determined that this deeply serrated–or sawlike–tooth structure is uniquely common to carnivorous theropods such as T. rex and Allosaurus, and even one of the first theropods, Coelophysis. Other extinct animals had teeth that were superficially similar, but it was the special arrangement of tissues inside the tooth that strengthened and improved the function of the teeth. The deep serrations made them much more efficient at chomping on bones and ripping flesh of larger animals and reptiles, and allowed them to prosper for about 165 million years as fearsome, top predators.
The only reptile living today that has the same superficial tooth structure is the Komodo dragon, native to Indonesia. It, too, preys on larger animals.
“What is so fascinating to me is that all animal teeth are made from the same building blocks, but the way the blocks fit together to form the structure of the tooth greatly affects how that animal processes food,” Brink said. “The hidden complexity of the tooth structure in theropods suggests that they were more efficient at handling prey than previously thought, likely contributing to their success.”
She and her colleagues also found that the unique arrangement of tooth tissues did not develop in response to these carnivores chewing hard materials. They determined this by examining samples of dinosaur teeth that had not yet broken through the gums, as well as samples from mature dinosaur teeth. Unlike humans, reptiles grow new teeth throughout their lifetimes.
“What is startling and amazing about this work is that Kirstin was able to take teeth with these steak knife-like serrations and find a way to make cuts to obtain sections along the cutting edge of these teeth,” said Reisz. “If you don’t cut them right, you don’t get the information.
“This brought about a developmental explanation for the tooth formation; the serrations are even more spectacular and permanent.”
Brink and colleagues used a scanning electron microscope – a very powerful microscope — and a synchrotron – a microscope that allows the user to understand a substance’s chemical composition — to do a thorough examination and analysis of tooth slices from eight carnivorous theropods, including T. rex, Allosaurus, Coelophysis and Gorgosaurus. The samples came from various museums, including the ROM, the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa, and the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta.
Reisz noted that his research lab has focused on teeth in the context of their workings within the jaw, making possible a broader understanding of the value of this discovery.
A housing development has been approved next to the rock shelter, threatening the fragile archaeological site.
The fate of the cave has drawn global attention with international scientists and scientific associations offering to help support its survival. For South Africans, the site creates tensions between a desire to save a precious heritage site and the sensitive issue of providing homes for the poor.Why Sibudu deserves to be preserved
The ancestors of all humanity evolved culturally at sites like Sibudu. Early modern humans developed complex thought patterns and symbolic behaviour in southern Africa. Among its prolific finds, Sibudu has some of the earliest examples in the world of sea-shell beads, a wide variety of bone tools, bone arrowheads for hunting, use of herbal medicine, and preserved plant bedding – all about 70,000 years old.
Archaeobotanists have identified seeds and charred wood from trees not found in the area today, and some plants that are valued for their medicinal properties. This establishes the antiquity of South Africa’s profound indigenous knowledge. Hunters brought the remains of many animals including extinct giant horse and buffalo to the shelter. It is therefore an environmental as well as a cultural archive.
Recently, chemical and protein analyses identified a mixture, probably from powdered red ochre mixed with wild bovid milk. This may have been body paint or something for decorating clothing or objects. The site is well-dated and has large collections of stone tools.
Sibudu is on the UNESCO list as part of a serial nomination for World Heritage status together with five other South African Stone Age sites. These sites inform us about the way early modern humans developed complex behaviour of the kind performed by people today. The South African Heritage Resources Agency nominated Sibudu as a National Heritage site. It was further nominated by the South African national government for World Heritage status.
The UNESCO document of July 2013, the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention, defines a World Heritage site thus:
The cultural and natural heritage is among the priceless and irreplaceable assets, not only of each nation, but of humanity as a whole. The loss, through deterioration or disappearance, of any of these most prized assets constitutes an impoverishment of the heritage of all the peoples of the world.
There is a considerable contradiction between South Africa’s national nomination of Sibudu as a World Heritage site and the provincial granting of development rights nearby.Development threatens Sibudu
A South African development company plans to build on sugar cane fields which it owns. The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs has authorised the building project. A low income subsidy housing estate with approximately 370 homes will be built on about 32 hectares within 300 metres of the centre of Sibudu.
Archaeologists are concerned about the effects of an increased footprint at the site because its dry, loose sediments are located on a slope and are susceptible to damage by trampling.
Other archaeological sites have been destroyed or heavily vandalised when housing developments were built nearby. Peers Cave in the Western Cape is an example. People perceive it as a secret area within a public place, where they can hold unnoticed parties or meetings. Fencing is an unsatisfactory option. Experience elsewhere suggests that intentional exclusion of people causes curiosity and invites vandalism.
The most sustainable way to protect archaeological sites is to have caretakers who see them as resources. If Sibudu becomes a World Heritage site, there will be full-time custodians. If wisely cared for, it can become an important archaeo-tourism destination and educational centre. A site museum and theme park could be of economic benefit to the local community.
When deciding on a course of action, South Africans must be cognisant that Sibudu cannot be moved in order to preserve it. It also has a non-renewable heritage resource that is only ours for as long as we cherish and protect it.Written by:
Lyn Wadley – Honorary Professor, School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies at University of the Witwatersrand
Rural parts of Britain have been experiencing a surge in stone thefts recently, including paving slabs and garden ornaments, and as a result, MPs have brought the issue of this new and emerging crime to Parliament’s attention.
The results of a UK heritage crime survey, supervised by Dr Louise Grove at the University’s Department of Social Sciences, and sent to those working in heritage conservation and enforcement, have indicated that stone is now the third most popular target for thieves at heritage sites behind copper and lead.
One of the main problems faced by police officers is the mammoth task of tracing unmarked stone once it has been sold on.
But Dr Paul Kelly, of the University’s Chemistry Department, said his research team are in the early stages of trialling a new technique which could prove to be a useful weapon in the fight against stone theft.
The procedure involves extracting a chemical blueprint from stone using a gelatine sheet (the sort normally used to lift developed fingerprints or footprints). The sample is then scanned using laser induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS).
The group has previously shown that the LIBS/gelatine lift combination is effective in metal theft detection and can create a ‘map’ of metal traces that are present on a suspect’s hands. It is this method which Dr Kelly and his team believe has the potential to be used to trace the geographical location of stone by analysing the residual traces on the gelatine sheet.
“We believe our non-invasive technique could provide a much needed link between suspected stolen stone and its original geographical location, but it is very early days” said Dr Kelly.
“This technique of lifting a sample from the surface of stone and scanning it could ultimately lead to us feeding the results into a national database, providing an indication of where geographically that sample came from. This can be done by comparing the stone samples with other stone located across the country and could prove to be a useful point of reference for those tackling stone theft.
“Our preliminary work has produced some encouraging results, and it is possible that our chemical blueprint technique could be the missing piece to the stone theft puzzle.”
New research by UC Santa Barbara geologist James Kennett and an international group of investigators has narrowed the date to a 100-year range, sometime between 12,835 and 12,735 years ago. The team’s findings appear today in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers used Bayesian statistical analyses of 354 dates taken from 30 sites on more than four continents. By using Bayesian analysis, the researchers were able to calculate more robust age models through multiple, progressive statistical iterations that consider all related age data.
“This range overlaps with that of a platinum peak recorded in the Greenland ice sheet and of the onset of the Younger Dryas climate episode in six independent key records,” explained Kennett, professor emeritus in UCSB’s Department of Earth Science. “This suggests a causal connection between the impact event and the Younger Dryas cooling.”
In a previous paper, Kennett and colleagues conclusively identified a thin layer called the Younger Dryas Boundary (YDB) that contains a rich assemblage of high-temperature spherules, melt-glass and nanodiamonds, the production of which can be explained only by cosmic impact. However, in order for the major impact theory to be possible, the YDB layer would have to be the same age globally, which is what this latest paper reports.
“We tested this to determine if the dates for the layer in all of these sites are in the same window and statistically whether they come from the same event,” Kennett said. “Our analysis shows with 95 percent probability that the dates are consistent with a single cosmic impact event.”
All together, the locations cover a huge range of distribution, reaching from northern Syria to California and from Venezuela to Canada. Two California sites are on the Channel Islands off Santa Barbara.
However, Kennett and his team didn’t rely solely on their own data, which mostly used radiocarbon dating to determine date ranges for each site. They also examined six instances of independently derived age data that used other dating methods, in most cases counting annual layers in ice and lake sediments.
Two core studies taken from the Greenland ice sheet revealed an anomalous platinum layer, a marker for the YDB. A study of tree rings in Germany also showed evidence of the YDB, as did freshwater and marine varves, the annual laminations that occur in bodies of water. Even stalagmites in China displayed signs of abrupt climate change around the time of the Younger Dryas cooling event.
“The important takeaway is that these proxy records suggest a causal connection between the YDB cosmic impact event and the Younger Dryas cooling event,” Kennett said. “In other words, the impact event triggered this abrupt cooling.
“The chronology is very important because there’s been a long history of trying to figure out what caused this anomalous and enigmatic cooling,” he added. “We suggest that this paper goes a long way to answering that question and hope that this study will inspire others to use Bayesian statistical analysis in similar kinds of studies because it’s such a powerful tool.”
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