remains of the original Jamestown Fort, illustrated here,
were lost until uncovered by Bill Kelso in 1994.
the middle of Virginia's James River lies Jamestown Island, the
site of the first permanent English settlement in North America.
The colonists aimed to farm and to trade copper jewelry for corn
from the local Indians, yet they suffered crippling death rates.
Were they hapless farmers? Beset by disease? Attacked by Indians?
At war with themslves? In "What Happened at Jamestown?",
Alda meets two scientists on the case
Bill Kelso uncovered the outlines
of the original fort the colonists built soon after they arrived
in 1607. Butchered horse bones and weapon fragments indicate the
colonists were starving and at war with the local Indians.
But the remains of a man dubbed "JR" by Smithsonian forensic anthropologist
Doug Owsley show the settler clearly died from a gunshot wound --
at the hands of an Englishman, too. They were the only people with
guns at that time. Owsley uses his expertise to read the bones and
figure out "Who shot JR?"
climatologist David Stahle turns to thousand-year-old cypress trees
to figure out why the settlers starved in a region that would later
flourish agriculturally. Core samples from the venerable trees provide
an accurate record of annual rainfall spanning centuries into the
past. Stahle finds that the region's worst drought in 700 years
occurred between 1607 and 1612. Little wonder the Indians wouldn't
trade for corn.
more on this topic, see the web feature:
Lessons from the Past