Jamestown Rediscovery archaeologists are completing excavation of one of the 1617 church’s earliest and most-prominently-positioned graves, believed to be that of Governor, Sir George Yeardley. While the team hopes that scientific analyses, including DNA, will be able to confirm his identity in the coming months, archaeological evidence suggests that this is Yeardley.
The first clue is that the grave is one of the only ones associated with Jamestown’s second church, the earliest of the 3 churches in this location. Yeardley died in 1627, during the period of the second church (c.1617 to c.1639). The grave appears aligned with the second church’s foundations, which are at a slightly different angle than the later two. Furthermore the fill in the grave is devoid of any deconstruction rubble from the second church, which likely indicates that it was dug before the building was dismantled.
The grave’s position in the central aisle, just in front of the chancel step to the altar and where it intersects with the quire (choir), would have been reserved for a prestigious person. Yeardley, who was governor at the time of his death in 1627, was one of the most notable people to die while the 1617 church was in use.
Finally, the so-called “Knight’s Tomb,” is believed to have sealed Yeardley’s grave. The ledger stone was moved during the construction of the 1640s church, so its original location was not known. Significantly larger than most other Jamestown burials, the oversized shaft—measuring 6 ft. 8 in. long and over 3 ft. wide—strongly suggests that it once accommodated a horizontal tombstone.