Thursday August 9th 2018
It was a few degrees cooler and just as humid today compared with yesterday. The result was a marginally more comfortable day for touring the Jamestown area. Ninety degrees and humid is still hot.
Jamestown is located about ten miles from Williamsburg. There are two attractions there associated with the first permanent English settlement in the New World. The Jamestown Settlement is a museum and recreation of Fort James run by a non-profit associated with the Commonwealth of Virginia. The actual historic site of the settlement complete with archaeological dig is in the Colonial National Historical Park run by the National Park Service. I toured both today.
The Jamestown Settlement museum has a twenty four minute movie that sets the historical perspective for the rest of the museum and recreated fort very well. It focuses on the Jamestown Settlement as the intersection of three cultures; the European primarily the British, the Powhatan Native Americans and the African people brought here against their will. The settlement was established primarily to make money for the Virginia company in England. It was not a government sponsored endeavor, but rather a government authorized by charter undertaking of an investment group. A secondary goal was to spread the British version of Christianity to the natives.
While I liked the movie, I wasn’t very impressed with the museum. It didn’t add much to the knowledge obtained from the movie. There weren’t many real artifacts. Most of the museum was made up of dioramas and placards. The attempts at interaction were older low technology approaches that didn’t seem to aid in providing knowledge. On the other hand the recreations outside were very good. They had a replica of a Powhatan village, replicas of the three ships that brought the first settlers to Jamestown and a recreation of Fort James.
The actual site of the original Jamestown colony is on an island about a mile from the Jamestown Settlement museum. The choice of the location was dictated by the need to defend the settlement from invaders. They were primarily worried about the Spanish not the Native Americans. There was not any fresh water on the island. Water had to be brought from the mainland which was connected to the island at low tide.
At the Jamestown site in the Colonial National Historical Park, there have been many archaeological digs during the last century or more. Each discovery provides additional understanding of the settlers. New discoveries are being made all the time. Recently another set of remains were found under the site of the old church. They are currently searching one of the plantation houses outside the fort walls for evidence of the African residents of the settlement. A big push is on to find more information for the four hundredth anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans in 2019.
Overall I spent four and a half hours at the two Jamestown attractions. I could have spent more time at the actual site, but the hot humid day was getting to me. The archaeologists were stopping for the day, so I took that as a reason to end my day as well.