Historic Jamestowne is the real deal–the actual site that marked the beginning of America’s colonization by the English. Start at the Visitor Center by viewing the introductory film and browsing exhibits about the voyagers and the people already inhabiting the area, the Powhatan Indians. The center also displays archaeological finds such as wine bottles, belt buckles, horse bones and more items from daily 17th century life.
Take advantage of the fact that parts of Jamestowne serve as an active archaeology dig. Dr. William Kelso, head archaeologist, discovered the post molds, the stains left in the ground when the original posts decayed. Planks re-create the original fort’s outline. Current excavation concentrates around the Memorial Church.
Tip: Check the daily schedule of ranger-led and other tours listed at the Visitor Center. Book well-in-advance for special tours such as the Curator’s Artifact Tour that takes you behind the scenes to see how the artifacts are cleaned and conserved.
Allow time for the Voorhees Archaearium’s display of more than 4,000 artifacts. A three-dimensional well depicts how pieces of armor and tools were found and recovered. Among the interesting exhibits is “Jane’s Story.” During the “starving time”, winter 1609 to 1610, a lack of food combined with disease and Indian attacks decimated the settlement of 300. Only 60 survived into spring. Jane wasn’t one of them. Archaeologists found her mutilated skull and leg bone amid those of butchered animal bones. Forensic scientists concluded that Jane, an English teenager, was a victim of cannibalism.
Another exhibit details the world of Pocahontas, the Powhatan native instrumental as a peacekeeper between her nation and the English settlers.
At the Jamestown Glasshouse, craftsmen blow glass, one of the colony’s first industries, using traditional techniques. Items are for sale.
Tip: To obtain a sense of the scenery the first settlers encountered , drive the park’s 5-mile loop that cuts through acres of natural woodlands and marsh.
Save money with multi-attraction tickets.