Subscribe to Archaeology

Top 10 Discoveries of 2010

1608 Church

Jamestown, Virginia


Archaeologists searching for a men’s barracks at Jamestown, Virginia, site of the first permanent English colony in the New World, have found instead the remains of the earliest Protestant church in North America. Led by Bill Kelso, Historic Jamestowne’s director of archaeology, the team exposed five deep postholes spaced 12 feet apart. Records indicate the wooden church, built in 1608, was 60 feet long. “It didn’t take a mathematical genius to figure out that we had found it,” says Kelso. 


The most prominent building at Jamestown, “the church would have been a statement about how important the colonists considered religion,” says Kelso. Several notable events in the colony’s early history took place there, including Pocahontas’s 1614 marriage to tobacco farmer John Rolfe. Kelso also found that at least six high-status colonists were buried in the church’s chancel, an area near the altar where important rites would have been performed. “Now we can actually point to the spot where Pocahontas got married,” says Kelso. “How often does something like that happen in archaeology?”