The L-shaped cellar is 40 feet west of the 17th century brick church tower that still stands on Jamestown Island. The cellar was about 2 1/2 feet below the present ground surface and was probably built in 1608. The objects in the cellar's backfill dirt indicated it was probably filled as part of a general cleanup ordered in June 1610 by the colony's new governor, Sir Thomas West, the 12th Baron De La Warr. (Artifacts from this cellar matched objects in other fort contexts filled by Lord De La Warr’s clean-up: military equipment, complete Indian pots that had been used by the colonists, metallurgical ceramics, and numerous glass trade beads.)
The July 2012 discovery of teeth was not at first noteworthy. The project had uncovered teeth and even partial skulls in other early 17th century deposits. Remains would mix with other discarded artifacts after settlers accidently dug into one of the hundreds of unmarked burials scattered across the fort site. But this time archaeologists also found half a human skull and other fragmented cranial remains. There were signs the skull had been chopped in two. Was this blow the cause of death -- evidence of a 400-year-old murder? Or was this a sign of cannibalism?
Jamestown Rediscovery archaeologists have worked around dozens of James Fort graves to leave them undisturbed. But in some cases the story they can tell is worth the extra time and care archaeologists can give a burial investigation.
Near the south wall of James Fort was a burial with a skeleton that had been shot in the lower right leg. Forensic studies on JR102C -- "JR" -- pointed to the skeleton being that of a young gentleman who had not lived in Virginia long. There was no sign of medical treatment of the wound, nor of healing, so the force of the lead musket ball likely severed an artery, causing him to bleed to death in a matter of minutes. JR's face has been reconstructed, and his story is told in the Archaearium at Historic Jamestowne.
Jamestown Rediscovery archaeologists also found a burial outside the western wall of James Fort that could be that of Captain Bartholomew Gosnold, a major planner of the colony. The skeleton was buried with a captain's ceremonial staff in a gable-lidded coffin -- trappings befitting the man who organized the settlement of Jamestown after he explored and named Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard. Gosnold was 36 years old when he died in August 1607 after a three-week illness. His remains are also on view at the Archaearium.