The most dramatic discovery made by historical archaeologists in recent years has to be the remains of the 1607 Jamestown colony. The small Virginia settlement has been widely viewed as populated by losers and scofflaws and its legacy has been plagued by accounts of disease, famine, and infighting. But now, largely thanks to archaeology, Jamestown is shedding its reputation as a seedy, failed outpost.
In the eminently readable Jamestown: The Buried Truth (University of Virginia Press, $29.95), archaeologist William Kelso takes the opportunity of the colony's 400th anniversary to tell the story of the remarkable discovery of Jamestown's buried remains, long thought to have been washed away by the nearby James River. He also uses the site's 700,000 artifacts, including finds like a suit of armor and even a surgical tool, to re-create the day-to-day life of the settlement. Kelso shows that while life in Jamestown was no picnic, it was far from the unrelentingly grim existence depicted in history books.
© 2007 by the Archaeological Institute of America