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Archaeology Opening Day is on Saturday, April 14 at Historic Jamestowne. In honor of the 24th season, Mary Anna Hartley, a Jamestown Rediscovery archaeologist, answered some questions we had about the work of Jamestown Rediscovery. She gives some great insight to what it’s like being an archaeologist at Historic Jamestowne and her favorite discovery is pretty awesome if you ask us!
Is Opening Day of the Archaeology Season like Christmas for the Jamestown Rediscovery staff?
Opening day can be exciting like Christmas, especially if we think the area we are going to investigate will prove promising! Nothing cures cabin fever from an extended winter like being back outside making new discoveries. However, the Jamestown Rediscovery’s field crew compares Opening Day to the spring training for baseball. Our work is very physical and many aches and pains go along with conditioning ourselves to being back in the trenches.
What do the archaeologists do when the weather doesn’t cooperate during the season?
That often depends on the type of project on which we are working. On rainy days, we have to cover the sites in order to protect them. Since every hour spent in the field is equal to several hours inside, there are always duties in the lab and office that need attention. There are artifacts to be processed, paperwork and maps to catch up on and infinite research projects.
During the 2017 season, what was the most exciting thing you discovered?
The most exciting discovery of 2017 was made in the Memorial Church, where our team has been excavating the 1617 Church. We believe that we have located chancel and choir for that church, therefore pinpointing the exact location where first General Assembly met on July 30, 1619! After the excavation and the floor is replaced, the Memorial Church will feature an exhibit that will allow visitors to stand exactly where representative government in the western hemisphere began.
What do you hope to find during 2018?
In 2018, Jamestown Rediscovery is focused on researching another compelling event of 1619: the arrival of the First Africans in Virginia. Only one of the First Africans brought to Jamestown is named, and she is an Angolan woman listed as Angela. Our team is working with the National Park Service to excavate the site where Angela may have lived and worked, in the hopes that archaeology will expand our understanding of her landscape and world.
Of the discoveries made at Historic Jamestowne, do you have a favorite (or a most memorable discovery)?
After 15 years of excavating, it is hard to pick a favorite discovery! One of my most memorable finds was a sword that I discovered in a cellar during Queen Elizabeth II’s visit in 2007. The sword still had a portion of the blade attached through the hilt, which is rare to find. I remember showing it to the Queen, and Dr. Kelso (the Director of Archaeology) said that he was worried that she might think that it still technically belonged to England and ask for it back! Her Majesty did not seem as impressed as we were with the rust covered object. Maybe she would have been more interested after our conservators preserved it. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and for me that sword was a once in lifetime discovery!
What should visitors make sure to see when they visit Historic Jamestowne?
The best way for visitors to gain an understanding of the site of James Fort is to take one our guided Archaeology Tours held at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily. Visitors should be sure to check out the Memorial Church excavation and the Angela Site out in New Town. Also, no one who visits Historic Jamestowne should ever leave without seeing the Archaearium, our Archaeology Museum, which highlights all of Jamestown’s recent major discoveries.
How can enthusiasts follow the discoveries at Historic Jamestowne?
Our website is a great resource for information about the archaeology, recent discoveries, events, programs, and general information. We also have two Facebook pages. The Historic Jamestowne page is geared toward overall visitor experience and Jamestown Rediscovery is focused on the archaeological discoveries. We also have an Instagram account where we share pictures in real-time of events, behind the scene images and everything in between. Our Twitter account will link to our website or appropriate content from other news groups – interviews, etc. We also have a YouTube channel. This is where we show videos about our current projects, interview specialists, and so much more. To stay up-to-date on all of our discoveries and future programming, be sure to follow us on all of our social media platforms.
For more information about Archaeology Opening Day, please visit the Historic Jamestowne event page on Facebook. More information about Historic Jamestowne can be found on their website.
Special thanks to Mary Anna Hartley for answering our questions!