December 13, 2013
Earlier this year, Colonial Williamsburg, Preservation Virginia and the Smithsonian Institution announced that there was scientific evidence that cannibalism existed in Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America.
This week, Archaeology magazine named the find one of the Top Ten Discoveries of 2013.
Several written accounts from the early 17th century have tantalized historians with reports that starving settlers had resorted to eating corpses, particularly during the “starving time” of 1609-10.
That winter was perhaps the lowest point for Jamestown. Sour relations with neighboring Indians made a miserable winter even worse. Nansemonds and Powhatans laid siege to the fort, killing any stray livestock or settler foraging outside the settlement’s walls.
Inside the fort, survivors became more desperate, falling from starvation and disease even as they ate their horses, along with dogs, cats and vermin. More than 200 settlers perished.
These were the conditions in which the stories of survival cannibalism emerged. One settler allegedly murdered his pregnant wife, then “chopped the Mother in pieces and salted her for his foode,” according to the research. Lacking firm evidence, some historians doubted the lurid tales, believing them to be exaggerations made for the entertainment of a gullible public.
But this year Jamestown’s archaeological team unearthed “Jane,” the skeleton of a 14-year-old girl dating to that fateful winter. Marks on her bones resemble the marks from a butcher. Knife cuts indicate that desperate colonists ate her to survive.
December 10, 2013
Organizers of the newest “RevQuest: Save the Revolution!” game are looking for volunteer “spies” to test the latest role-playing adventure on Friday and Saturday, December 13-14.
In addition to cracking codes and evading capture, participants will look for any unclear clues or instructions to ensure future players enjoy a seamless experience when the new game officially debuts March 31, 2014. The alternate reality game is expected to run daily for most of the year.
The new mission takes place early in the war, when an American victory is far from certain. “Questors are recruited by a well-known patriot to join the Committee of Secret Correspondence, to help secure the critical alliance with France,” said Lisa Fischer, director of the Digital History Center. Ideally, players use a text-enabled mobile phone to receive clues while playing, though those who don’t have access to texting will still be able to play.
Since the launch of the first game, ‘RevQuest: Sign of the Rhinoceros” in 2011, more than 80,000 visitors to Colonial Williamsburg have taken part in aiding the Revolutionary cause.
Want to help test the new “RevQuest: Save the Revolution!” game and provide feedback on the experience? Find more information and sign up here. All testing participants will receive a complimentary, single-day Colonial Williamsburg admission ticket valid on the day that they test the game.
December 3, 2013
Historic Jamestowne is planning a special event on April 5, 2014 – the reenacted wedding of Pocahontas and John Rolfe, marking the 400th anniversary of the legendary nuptials. In a collaboration between Historic Jamestowne and the Colonial Williamsburg Costume Design Center, Pocahontas’ wedding jacket also will be recreated with help from volunteers.
Embroiderers of all skill levels are needed to help finish the garment.
“This is the first time Jamestowne has done this kind of project,” said Julie Zellers-Frederick, Preservation Virginia’s volunteer coordinator. “We are calculating 300 work hours to make the jacket.”
The replicated garment will be based on the Falkland Jacket in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. While the exact jacket piece is not known, the Falkland Jacket dates from the same time period and is representative of the kind of jacket Pocahontas might have worn for the occasion.
The jacket will be black embroidery on white linen, with depictions of mythical and realistic creatures, flowers, insects, fish and other animals specific to Virginia. The original Falkland Jacket is embroidered with pictures of mythical and realistic animals.
Applicants will be sent a sample swatch of fabric to complete, on which they will demonstrate the types of stitches required.
Volunteer embroiderers are invited to contact Julie Zellers-Frederick at email@example.com or 757-856-1259.
December 2, 2013
Colonial Williamsburg brings to life the founders and the everyday people who made the American Revolution. But what of the dead? Williamsburg also contains scattered cemeteries of various sizes. Watch some highlights in our new video tour. First, a little background.
Many eminent figures in Williamsburg’s history, including Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry, were buried on their own property. Other notables, including Francis Fauquier, Virginia’s lieutenant governor for a decade before his death in 1768, are buried under the floor of Bruton Parish on Duke of Gloucester Street. Outside, the church’s crowded cemetery dates to the 1630s. Time has dulled many markings, but there remains a trove of tributes and symbols, from angels and cherubs to family coats of arms.
Looking around, you’ll come across people of Williamsburg from all walks of life: John Blair, a signer of the Constitution; and John Greenhow, who owned the store bearing his name almost directly across the street.
Ordinary townspeople commonly would have had simple wooden crosses erected to mark their resting place, but wealthier residents are memorialized with stone markers or with elaborate monuments called table tombs. As with other burials there, bodies would have been interred four to six feet underground.
The Historic Area also includes seven family graveyards. At one, the top of a cross rises above a brick enclosure between the Capitol and the Secretary’s Office. Behind the locked gate are 10 members of the Jones family. Just north of Basset Hall lies the Waller graveyard, where more than 30 descendants of that family are buried. A 10-foot tall monument labeled “Mercer” rises in the center of the yard. As with so many older cemeteries, this one marks the final resting place of children who succumbed to one of the deadly diseases that were such a normal feature of life for past generations.
Behind the Coke-Garret house at the east end of Nicholson Street, a brick wall conceals a single 1854 gravestone. In all likelihood, others also were buried in this family plot, but the markers have been lost.
Williamsburg’s cemeteries are just one more piece of the rich tapestry of this town’s history, and worth a few minutes’ reflection when you visit.
December 2, 2013
Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area is seeing a construction boom to rival the 1926 reconstruction efforts of John D. Rockefeller and W. A. R. Goodwin. Fresh on the heels of Charlton’s Coffee House and Anderson’s Armory Complex comes a new project to resurrect the Colonial Market House.
This week on the podcast, Architectural Historian Carl Lounsbury joins us to talk about the project and the history behind it. Market houses were a nexus of colonial society, linking classes, professions and races in one hungry crowd on market day.
November 21, 2013
In the 18th century, tea was expensive — as was sugar — and reserved only for the wealthy. Afternoon tea often was served in delicate porcelain cups on a low table with additional serving pieces like tongs and saucers.
Tea time could reveal much about the lady serving the tea: her wealth, status and knowledge of etiquette. Today, you can escape a dreary day with an authentic Afternoon Royal Tea in the Goodwin Room at the Williamsburg Inn.
In addition to tea, sandwiches, scones, and French pastries will be served. The royal tea also includes a glass of champagne or sparkling cider.
Find out more about Afternoon Royal Tea at the Williamsburg Inn.
Read “Trouble Brewing” from the Colonial Williamsburg Journal.
Download “Afternoon Tea” wallpaper for your computer.