April 11, 2011
The opening day of the 18th archaeology field season at Historic Jamestowne attracted a VIP after all.
Though President Obama's family vacation to the Williamsburg area was cancelled by Congressional budget wrangling, the mayor of Matoaka, WV, did bring his family April 9.
Todd Colonna watched some of his 10 children work at an activity table to sort finely screened materials from the archaeological excavations, looking for very small artifacts.
"We redo old buildings back in our town. They're used to getting dirty," Colonna said.
Izabella Colonna spent a long time at the picking table set up inside the Nathalie P. and Alan M. Voorhees Archaearium, working directly with Bly Straube, senior archaeological curator for the Jamestown Rediscovery Project.
"We are looking for iron and copper and bricks and oyster shells," Izabella said, carefully working the tweezers under the bright lights.
Her mother, Kelly Colonna, was amazed at how interested her family was in all the special activities offered around the original James Fort site.
"We didn't know about the event until this morning. We were going to spend a few hours out here but not the whole day," she said. "We got here at 9:30, and now it's after 2, and we haven't even had lunch. We love it!"
During the opening day, Jamestown Rediscovery archaeologists answered questions from visitors about excavation plans for 2011 -- visitors from Ohio, Wisconsin, Missouri, and many other states. Two archivists from England and an English businessman also made their way to the island to see a 400-year-old writing tablet go on permanent display in the Archaearium.
The businessman, Jeremy Viewing, was awed as he looked at the dense markings on the slate that was found in a James Fort well.
"What a find! It's all marvelous," Viewing said. "I could spend the whole day here. I would love for this to be on my doorstep, but my doorstep is 3,000 miles away, over the ocean. This is just as much English history as it is American history. It's the foundation of the empire."
Senior staff archaeologist Danny Schmidt agreed. "It's not just the history of our country. The modern world really gets rolling here."
Archaeologists worked opening day to continue their exploration of the site of the 1608 church within James Fort. They uncovered window lead and heavy brick and mortar that was likely left from the excavations and construction work of the 1907 church currently standing just east of the fort site.
Coopers demonstrated their historic barrel-making skills near the dig site, and children's activities dotted the landscape from the entrance of the Preservation Virginia property to the Archaearium.
Seven-year-old Michael Cremo drew his own take-home version of decorative delftware tiles found in the fort site. His marker drawing showed something older than Jamestown but near and dear to him.
"I decided to draw a dinosaur. Actually, it's a pterosaur. They were related to dinosaurs," he said, showing his magnetic tile. "I must admit, this looks pretty neat. But the real pterosaur looks much better."
His father, Larry Cremo, brought the family from Mechanicsburg, PA, to visit the Williamsburg area with in-laws.
"I love history. That's all I read. But this is a couple of hundred years behind what I usually read. I do the Revolution and Washington," Cremo said.
His group had four adults and five children. One kid joined in the dig box, another loved the boat races by the river. And what did Cremo himself learn?
"It was tough. They didn't have a lot of friends here. I'll have to learn more about Pocahontas and what she did for them," he said.
Historic Jamestowne is jointly administered by the National Park Service and The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation (on behalf of Preservation Virginia) and preserves the original site of the first permanent English settlement in the New World.