Part One of my Virginia Vacation Historical Adventure narrative begins today with our trip to Historic Jamestowne.
Most people who think of visits to Jamestown are thinking about visits to the Jamestown Settlement, which is a recreation of the historic fort and settlement. While I did stop at this site, it is not one of my favorites. I did however LOVE Historic Jamestowne – the actual site where the fort and town stood. There is a much more heavy feeling of history around you here than at the other site – although that one is also worthy as a living history teaching tool.
The Historic Jamestown site is a joint operation between the National Park Service (who operates the New Town side of the park) and Preservation Virginia (who operates the Fort side of the park). There is also a small museum and gift shop at the entrance to the park.
The day that we went it was lightly raining, of course because it is all outside! The first thing you encounter when walking out into the park is the Tercentennial Monument. This is a huge obelisk commemorating 300 years after the settling of Jamestown. This sort of is a dividing point between the two sides of the park. If you head over to the left you encounter New Town. The Monument is also where many of the guided walking tours start out, hosted by a Park Ranger. We took one of these tours and learned a lot about Pocahontas.
New Town is the site where the town was settled in the years following settlement at the Fort. There were 3 main streets, various houses, shops, and farms. All that you will now see are foundations, and these are recreations built atop the original excavated foundations. To help visualize what the site may have looked like, there is an interactive feature where you can look out with binoculars at the New Town field and it will show you what they looked like and tell you about life there. This was a pretty cool addition to a pretty barren field.
The area that interested me the most is the actual Fort site. Thanks to extensive archaeological excavation they have uncovered the remains of the fort wall, church, storehouses, living quarters, wells, cemeteries, etc. We had the honor of having a great tour by one of the head archaeologists on the site. It was so enlightening to learn how they managed to find all of these amazing artifacts, especially when they were telling them that the fort had been washed into the river! They couldn’t open the active dig sites for us because of the rain, which was somewhat disappointing. As at New Town, almost all of the structures seen above ground in the Fort are recreations exactly above where the original foundations are. This is done to protect the artifacts. The only above ground foundation is the tower of the church, which is indeed from the 1600’s.
If you want to know more about the dig, you can visit the dig website where they periodically post new videos of their progress. They also have a historical index of their updates since 2003.
You can watch the below video which is a combination of the photos I took on this trip.
There is also a great book that I would recommend that talks about the dig written by the head archaeologist – Jamestown: The BuriedTruth by William M. Kelso.
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