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Jamestown, the Buried Truth Hardcover – 15 Dec 2006

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: University of Virginia Press (15 Dec. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813925630
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813925639
  • Product Dimensions: 24.3 x 17.4 x 2.2 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 944,775 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"The unearthing of Jamestown is truly the autopsy of America, an amazing dissection and reconstruction of four-hundred-year-old artifacts and human remains that reveal how the first settlers spent their days, how they lived and died, and what they accomplished and suffered. Without chief archaeologist William Kelso's almost mystical vision that the original site still existed and his persistence against all odds to unearth it, we would have little to rely on but legend to tell us how modern America began. Jamestown: The Buried Truth, is brilliantly written, a story and adventure unlike any other that will forever change the way we think about what happened when John Smith and his brave followers sailed to Virginia in 1607 and established the first permanent English settlement." oPatricia Cornwell"

About the Author

William M. Kelso is Head Archaeologist of the Jamestown Rediscovery Project.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 34 reviews
48 of 48 people found the following review helpful
C.S.I. Jamestown... Indiana Jones Meets Gil Grissom! 15 Jan. 2007
By David M. Garrett - Published on
Format: Hardcover
During a visit in 1994, I witnessed the early stages of the Jamestown Rediscovery team's dig and wondered, "What do they expect to find that hasn't turned up in the last (then) 387 years? Don't we know the story of the first permanent English settlement in America? During my 2005 visit I chatted with several of Kelso's team. They answered my question. I was amazed. You will be too.

"Jamestown: The Buried Truth" chronicles an historical treasure rediscovered in America's backyard. William Kelso's perspectives are fresh and the history flavored with insight into the patient techniques and tools of archeology. A consummate scientist, Kelso is objective in interpreting the facts and balanced in posing scenarios where facts are absent or ambiguous. Though reading like a doctoral dissertation at times, soon enough the pages begin to turn revealing a captivating story. Published by the University of Virginia Press, this 238 page book is elegant and neatly executed. The text is complemented, not overwhelmed by photographs, maps and diagrams, many in color. Excluding footnotes, that are relegated to the back, visual aids are available for immediate reference, located adjacent to the applicable discussion.

The book is divided into five parts. The first chapter examines the written record including a selection of primary sources from journals, reports, and letters. With this as context, Kelso digs into the site's physical evidence. Included is a fascinating account of the rediscovery of James Fort, long believed lost to the adjacent river. Also included is a more tedious narrative of various buildings discovered proximal to the fort. The pace accelerates in chapter three - Recovering Jamestownians - as the reader is treated to a gripping account of life in the colony as witnessed through the study of its human remains. Take the circumstances of "JR102C," the skeleton of a gunshot victim. The colonist's identity and the circumstances of his shooting are inconclusive. Nevertheless, Kelso elaborates on accident, Virginia Indians, and political intrigue as plausible scenarious involving both the individual and the colony at large. Later Kelso ponders if another find - "The Captain" - is actually Bartholomew Gosnold, a leading figure in the founding of the colony? The quest for identification takes the Rediscovery team to graves in Suffolk, England in search of maternal ancestors and DNA confirmation. This is a fascinating story in itself.

In chapter four Kelso summarizes the written, archeological and forensic findings into a revised, revealing view of Jamestown. In light of the new evidence, the author discusses the colony's performance relative to its charter; i.e., where it adhered to or departed from Virgina Company guidance; its successes and shortcomings; and always "Why?" The author also tells us how the experiences of these Englishmen and -women began their transformation into Americans. The final chapter documents outlying sites where our representative government took root. The book concludes with the abandonment of Jamestown (for Williamsburg) in 1698.

Kelso concludes, "...history and archaeology rediscovers Jamestown. The lost 1607 James Fort is found. Burials reveal its people. Thousands of objects open windows on daily life. And documents and digging lay bare the places of American democracy." Even after the ink has dried, the rediscovery of Jamestown continues.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Why I Appreciate Jamestown 20 Dec. 2006
By Lucie Peek - Published on
Format: Hardcover
My husband and I visited Jamestown Settlement on our honeymoon to Williamsburg this year, and this coming year of 2007 is the 400th anniversary of the settlement that literally began American culture as we know it today. This book highlights all of the hidden things that nobody thinks about in history anymore and is an excellent history of Jamestown. It contains some very cool pictures and little known facts. I think that I appreciate this book more because I have been to the Jamestown Settlement (twice actually) and we got to see up close the artifacts and the land. Next year, a huge new wing of the Jamestown Museum will open up, just in time for the 400th anniversary celebration, and will contain many of the artifacts and pieces mentioned in the book. I really feel that this is an important read and the Jamestown is more than a place for schoolchildren to visit. American culture began at Jamestown. This is really where things got started, and it's a piece of our heritage as Americans that is quite often overlooked or skimmed over. What better time to get aquainted with our history than now, when it's about to turn 400 years old?
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
impressive archeological methods 15 Jan. 2007
By W Boudville - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Kelso's book targets the 400th anniversary of this European settlement in North America. In a very readable narrative, he describes to a lay reader the results of recent intensive archeology into what remains of Jamestown. There are copious photos and diagrams, in black and white and colour, that help to convey how the diggings were conducted, and how the settlers lived.

It is also an enjoyable education of how archeology is currently conducted. A reader might [and indeed should] be impressed by the painstaking methodology of extracting relics, while all the time striving to record the context in which they were found. Along with what is possible in terms of scientific dating techniques.

We see that Jamestown was a very precarious place to be. Starvation was a real danger, and the colonists were simply unaware of effective agricultural methods in the New World. Those would come later, to other settlers at other colonies. At Jamestown, this ignorance carried a heavy price.
21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
It Takes a Village 14 Jan. 2007
By Kevin Killian - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I knew I had to get this book when I saw it had a blurb on the back by Patricia Cornwell, not the first person you think of in terms of being an archaeological expert, but an expert at whipping up excitement in readers as well as being the writer with the weirdest Jack the Ripper theory ever and the bank balance to "prove it." And Virginia is her turf just the way Pamplona was Hemingway's, plus she has all the forensic science in her background so as Dr. Kelso and his team pull one body after another out of the spongy Jamestown earth, you can practically feel the excited, hot breath of Patricia Cornwell at the back of your neck, willing them to come to the right forensic conclusions.

They didn't find only bodies, they found literally hundreds of thousands of small forgotten items, everything from strands of hair to kernels of unpopped corn to bits of bright finery. Kelso provides dozens of photos of these items, and some curious computer-generated drawings to show you how Jamestowners might actually have looked, alive and standing up and sporting muskets. One corpse he calls "The First Lady" of Jamestown, buried in a white pine coffin with its nails surviving, and among the relics was an "eggshell-like" skull with five teeth remaining, and thanks to fleuroscopy and CGI we turn the page and voila, there's a picture of the first lady's skull, and next to it, her head while alive, smiling and looking arch, with great swooping eyebrows that give her the look of a red-haired Mariska Hargitay. "The image may be more reflective of the reality of rugged early Jamestown than most want to imagine. Regardless, the 1617 engraving of Pocahontas is now no longer the only existing image of an early Jamestown woman." That's stretching things a bit, since this image isn't exactly "existing" in the same way as the famous Pocahontas picture, but in general Kelso has it right when he implies that in American history, image is pretty much everything, and we never really know something until it's been iconized.

The book is a thrill from beginning to end, and very authoritative, but something in me cries out for a good hearty Lynne Cheney historical novel instead, to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the place, something like JAMESTOWN BABYLON. Ms. Cornwell, it's your turn next. Take us back to the place where among the colonists, a madman laughed in the dark starlit Virginia night.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Very Enlightening 21 Mar. 2007
By Dennis R. Hall - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Jamestown, The Buried Truth was a very detailed and comprehensive retelling of the history of the first permanent English settlement. It was very enlightening and blew up several popular myths about life in the early years and the colonists, themselves. The archeology digs revealed that some of the personal accounts of the settlement, by now famous colonists, were self-serving and not entirely accurate. It also helped reveal the changing relations between the colonists and native Americans. I would definitely recommend it for anyone the least bit interested in the early history of American.
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