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Early 17th-Century Food Remains from James Fort Analyzed

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

JAMESTOWN, VIRGINIA—The Virginia Gazette reports that more than 200,000 artifacts recovered from the second well dug in the seventeenth century at James Fort have been analyzed. The collection of animal bones, which was unearthed in 2006, reveals the colonists’ transition from eating wild animals to domestic ones in the 1610s, according to Michael Lavin of the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation. He explained that the colonists survived the Starving Time in the winter of 1609 to 1610 by eating raccoon and opossum. That spring, he added, food resources were controlled under martial law and the colonists practiced more communal eating as they began to become self-sufficient by learning to manage wild resources, sow crops, raise animals. The types of animal bones in the second well indicate that the colonists ate fewer raccoons and opossums after 1610, and more wild venison, fish, turtles, and fowl. The presence of few cattle bones in this well also suggests that colonists followed a local law to protect cattle brought from England from consumption, in order to expand the herd. To read about another recent discovery at Jamestown, go to "Burn Notice."

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