The First Colonists
Barely over 100 men and boys sailed from England. They were laborers, soldiers, craftsmen, officers, and gentlemen. Three of their journals survive to tell of the ordeals these first colonists endured at Jamestown. But did their words describe actual events in 1607?
Until very recently, little was known about the first inhabitants of Jamestown or their first home, James Fort. No one knew where they were buried. Then archaeologists began to find their graves. So far, investigators have studied several burials that date to 1607, and they have located more. In each case, stories long buried are coming to light.
Studying these skeletons, we now grasp more fully what happened to them. Most of the colonists who fought for a foothold in Jamestown during its first three years lost their lives.
Written records indicate that the fort, built in 1607, still existed in 1620. But by 1624, it had essentially disappeared.
Two colonists wrote that a young Englishman died during an Indian attack two weeks after they landed on the island. Is the skeleton excavators found in 2005 this same man?
Of the original 104 colonists, only 38 were still alive nine months after landing. Diseases proved as deadly as arrows or lead shot.
By mid—August 1609, the situation was dire. With a load of new colonists and exhausted food supplies, young adults — normally a society's healthiest members — were dying.
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