The Jamestown Rediscovery team is currently working with specialists to collect and analyze evidence to try to prove whether the man buried in the chancel grave is Governor, Sir George Yeardley. Preliminary forensic analysis in the field indicated that the individual is a male around 40 years of age, which is in line with what is known about Yeardley.
The skeletal remains are undergo additional forensic analysis by the Skeletal Biology Program team at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. The biological profile of every skeleton is unique and the Smithsonian team reads the clues “written” in the bones for information on sex, age, health, activities in life, and sometimes the cause of death. The skeletal remains are also being tested chemically to look at the lead levels and carbon isotope ratios, which can indicate the individual’s status and origin.
The University of Leicester’s Prof. Turi King, who directed the genetic analysis for the project that identified King Richard III, is using DNA analysis to try to confirm whether the man is Yeardley. To identify historical individuals, DNA extracted from the skeletal remains can be compared to living relatives either through an all-male line or an all-female line. Working with a genealogy expert, King will DNA test living Yeardley relatives for comparison.
Dental specialists Dr. Josh Cohen of Virginia Commonwealth University and Dr. Martin Levin of the University of Pennsylvania are examining the calculus on the man’s teeth. Dental calculus, a repository for genetic material over a person’s lifetime, can shed light on an individual’s diet, environment, and health history.
Once all of the research is completed, Jamestown Rediscovery archaeologists plan to reinter the remains, giving proper recognition to this remarkable individual who has been lost to history for centuries.