Visitors who walk across the footbridge from the Visitor Center to the James Fort site can easily spot the life teaming below in the Pitch and Tar Swamp. The numerous turtle species active on the island include snapping turtles, box turtles, painted turtles, spotted turtles, sliders, terrapin, and striped mud turtles. During the early years of the colony, turtles were a common part of the colonists’ diet. Most of the aforementioned turtle species have been found alongside other processed animal remains in the archaeological excavations. Some of these turtle species, such as the mud turtles, were likely consumed out of sheer desperation — their glands omit an awful smelling secretion when threatened! Although not common in the waters around Jamestown, the colonists also ate sea turtles which have also been found in the archaeological collection. These sea turtles may have been gathered in the waters around Bermuda by the survivors of the Sea Venture shipwreck or could have been caught in the Chesapeake Bay.

“But of the land tortoises we take and eat daily…”

-William Strachey