Grave surprise rises in Jamestown fort

Excavations in the 17th-century fort at Jamestown, Va., have yielded the grave of a high-ranking male colonist. Physical and historical evidence indicates that the man was one of the community’s leaders, according to William Kelso, archaeology director of the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities’ Jamestown Rediscovery project.

The most exciting possibility is that the grave, which included a ceremonial staff attached to the coffin lid, holds the remains of Captain Bartholomew Gosnold. The Englishman was the principal promoter of this expedition to establish a settlement in the New World. Gosnold died in 1607, at age 36, 4 months after serving as second-in-command of the fleet that had landed 107 settlers. The skeleton might also have belonged to any of four other prominent male colonists who died in their mid-30s between 1607 and 1610, Kelso says.

The researchers plan to extract DNA from the skeleton and compare its molecular structure to that of DNA from Gosnold’s living descendants.


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Bruce Bower has written about the behavioral sciences for Science News since 1984. He writes about psychology, anthropology, archaeology and mental health issues.

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