Chancel Burials

Cutting-Edge Research reveals Identities of Four Founders

In 2010, Jamestown Rediscovery archaeologists discovered the site of the earliest known Protestant church in North America. Hidden within the church was a mystery: in the chancel at the east end of the building archaeologists found four graves, which were subsequently excavated in November 2013. The chancel was the holiest part of the church, where the communion table stood and where only the most important people in the community were buried. Archaeological, historical, and scientific analyses have now helped researchers to identify the four leaders of Jamestown chosen for this honor: The Reverend Robert Hunt, Captain Gabriel Archer, Sir Ferdinando Wainman, and Captain William West.

Learn more about the excavation of the chancel burials in the “Finding the Founders of English America” video. Then begin exploring with the links below how historical, archaeological, scientific, and forensic evidence have been brought together to identify these four leaders of Jamestown and to examine a mysterious silver box that was placed on one of the coffins.


Media Coverage


The Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation (Preservation Virginia) and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History would like to thank the following individuals and organizations for their support of this research project:

Douglas Owsley
Kari Bruwelheide

Adam Metallo

Mark Roman, Chair of the Board of Directors
Loretta Roman

Anne Geddy Cross, Chair of the Board of Directors
Elizabeth Kostelny, Chief Executive Officer

Tom Austin
Linda Baumgarten
George Cloyed
Erik Goldstein
Willie Graham
Carl Lounsbury
Kirsten Moffitt
Brenda Rosseau
Janine Skerry
Chris Swan
Emily Williams

Mark Riccio

Juan Mario Gomez
Kermit Hoffman
Mark Matthews
Jeff Urbanski
Whitney Yetter

Henry Miller
Timothy Riordan
Silas Hurry

Tim Sledz
Benjamin Ache
Sumita Chandiramani
Brandon Walters

Beatrice Behlen

Ashley McKeown

Susan North

Bernard Means