Yesterday the forensic anthropology team at our Museum of Natural History announced the discovery of four early leaders of historic Jamestown found buried under a excavated church. 

Over on smithsonian3d‘s website, you can explore the site in 3D and take interactive tours created by our anthropologists as they guide you through how they used forensics and historical records to identify these men


While excavating the remains of Jamestown – the first successful English colony in North America – archeologists discovered the skeletons of some of the colony’s leaders. 

Buried with one of the bodies was a silver box inscribed with the letter “M”. The box was too fragile to open, so scientists used a CT scanner to look inside. They discovered a tiny lead capsule and a few bone fragments.

Bill Kelso, the project’s top archaeologist, says the capsule is “a lead vessel that would hold holy water, oil or blood; and the bone would be that of a saint. Put together, this is a very holy object.” He thinks the colonist may have retained his Roman Catholic faith in secret. 

Read more about the recent Jamestown discoveries here.       

Images Courtesy of Smithsonian X 3D        


Here’s a couple of pictures I took back in May of the ongoing excavation of James Fort/Jamestown. This is the cellar where archaeologists made the gruesome discovery of the body of an approximately 14-year-old female whose remains had clear indicators of butchery.

(Source: X)

Named “Jane” by the researchers who examined her, she is the only known victim of survival cannibalism at the settlement, though texts from the time suggest other individuals suffered the same fate during the period known as the Starving Time. Jane’s cause of death is unknown, and it is not certain whether her death was directly related to survival cannibalism or if she died of other causes before her remains were eaten (though the latter is more likely).

Jane’s skull (as well as several other bones that show obvious cut marks) are currently on display at The Nathalie P. and Alan M. Voorhees Archaearium. Pictures are not allowed within this museum, but more images (and discussion) of her remains can be found here and the press release about the discovery and analysis can be found here.

Identities of Mysterious Jamestown Settlers Revealed

Four lost leaders of the first permanent English settlement in the Americas have been identified, thanks to chemical analysis of their skeletons, as well as historical documents.

The settlement leaders were mostly high-status men who were buried at the 1608 Jamestown church in Virginia. And all played pivotal roles in the early colony.

“They’re very much at the heart of the foundation of the America that we know today,” said Douglas Owsley, a forensic anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., who helped identify the bodies.

By analyzing the bones, researchers can get a snapshot of what it was like to live during the earliest days of America, Owsley said. Read more.

May 13, 1607: Colonists Arrive in Virginia to Found Jamestown

On this day in 1607, around 100 English colonists arrived at the James River in Virginia to found Jamestown. The settlers of the new colony were immediately besieged by attacks from Algonquian natives, rampant disease, and internal political strife. In their first winter, more than half of the colonists perished from famine and illness.

Explore Secrets of the Dead’s Jamestown interactive. 

Photo: 2008 photo of the remains of the 1639 Jamestown Church tower with 20th century reconstruction on the original foundations (Wikipedia).


An Exploration of Space and the Unconventional: Making the Familiar Unfamiliar, and the Unfamiliar Familiar.

“The Face of Sound”

“All along we have been made to believe in only what we can see. But sometimes the truth is hidden in not so far away soundscapes.”

Fashion artist and DJ Steloolive is on a quest to create sound devoid of “commercial contamination”. An amorphous sound that does not subject itself to the hallmarks of popular standards yet can invade and thrive in spaces we already know. Sounds we heard growing up were from cinema and radio. Sounds that made us afraid yet intrigued. Sounds we couldn’t turn up or down simply because it was daddy’s radio!  

Occupying familiar everyday spaces where much is often taken for granted, Steloo covers his face, and with it his sight and sound senses that are used to navigate these places and interact with others, as a means of uncovering and rediscovering these environs in an unfamiliar way.

Jamestown, Ghana.

Photos: Francis Kokoroko, 2015.

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Archaeologists rebuild 1608 church where Pocahontas was married

About five years after the footprint of the first Jamestown colony church was discovered, archaeologists and other specialists are busy partially reconstructing the structure. Believed to be the place where Pocahontas married the English tobacco planter John Rolfe, archaeologists hope that the reconstruction will provide the public with a real life, physical replica of the building that made history more than 400 years ago near the banks of the James River in southern Virginia. The church was built by the colonists in 1608 initially as a wood structure, then replaced by a brick structure later.

As stated by Jamestown Rediscovery Project Senior Staff Archaeologist David Givens in the project Dig Updates blog, “our intention here is not to recreate the entire church but give some notion of the space, so that when people are standing inside the church they can understand what the walls would have looked like and the fabric of the building.” Read more.


#ChaleWote2015 Hairstyles Part 1

The Chale Wote Street Art Festival 2015 took place over the weekend in Jamestown - Accra, Ghana. The 4-day festival celebrated the best of contemporary art from all over the world. About 200 artists converged at the Center of the world to exhibit their creativity around the theme “African Electronics.” People who came out to the art festival also had the chance to showcase their creativity in one way the other. Some showed up in amazing street fashion styles and others show up with kick ass hair styles. These awesome ladies with beautiful hairstyles were captured by Photographer Apagnawen Annankra at the festival.