History On the Summertime Road II - Jamestown 400
We couldn't go to the east shore in 2007 without a stop by Jamestown to mark the 400th anniversary of the settling of the US! The brand-spankin new visitors center was of course open, and settling into normal mode (following visits by the Queen, W, and hosts of world-wide dignitaries). It was a highly pleasant day, no fleas bit, the sun was tolerable, and the archaeologists more than amiable and talkative. The pit they'd begun last summer when we visited is now a completely open area exposing a 10 foot 17th century brick wall face, and what was beginning to look suspiciously like a brick staircase. The digging that afternoon was what they call "recordkeeping": scraping very small bits away to watch for slight changes in soil color, texture, and content. And such a change was emerging, as an ash color appeared slowly out of the more reddish brown substrate.
Meanwhile, unbothered that day on the riverside clay wall face, protruded what is surely a sword hilt.
If you go, get the archaeologists talking. There are also volunteers who act as guides around the digs, who are very informed. Remember, for the past 200 years, we thought all this was lost to river and sea! Yet in the past 10, over 100,000 artifacts have been pulled out! Of course, go to the Archaearium.
As to the visitors center, well, too many PhD's got involved. Rather than tell a good story, they regressed to "Critical Skills" and Multiculturalism" theory, and filled the walls with overwhelming dry expository. The videography of the introductory film was state of the practice, the content focused too much on Multiculturalism and too little on real events and real--flesh, blood, and feelings--people.
Alas, we didn't catch up with Dick Cheatham, or whoever was appearing in character that day--'twas not John Rolfe as we so enjoyed last year. But if you go, do try to fit in a session with the historic interpreter of the day.
Oh, and don't forget to visit the APVA's Jamestown website and Jamestown Rediscovery site. They have two interactives for "You are the Archeologist", a nice html interactive of the Fort James excavation area, and plenty more to plan, follow up on, or substitute for a very pleasant visit! The Park Service operates a separate site.
Finally, we still didn't get to experience Jamestown Settlement, or its brother, Yorktown Victory Center. If you're takin kids, and planning more than a brief pass through, don't forget to budget for these excellent resources!