Thursday, February 5, 2009

Artifacts from Historic Jamestowne to be exhibited at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History beginning February 7

This is from the websites of APVA’s Historic Jamestowne and the Smithsonian Institution; please see the links below.

Written in Bone: Forensic Files of the 17th-Century Chesapeake

Location: Second Floor; National Museum of Natural History
Exhibit: February 7, 2009 – February 6, 2011

Forensic anthropology, modern technology and archaeology converge to provide intriguing information on people and events of America's past. This exhibition explores history anew through 17th-century bone biographies – real life stories compiled from skeletal and burial investigations of early European and African immigrants to the Chesapeake Bay area. Scientists reveal how studies of human bones, found in sites ranging from Jamestown, Virginia to St. Mary’s City, Maryland, provide new information about the past, as well as who we are today.

Over 70 artifacts from the James Fort excavations at Historic Jamestowne will be part of the exhibition. The exhibit features the profound work of Dr. Doug Owsley, Division Head of Physical Anthropology at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History and explores how forensic science is expanding our understanding of life in 17th century America. What can we learn from bones? From burials? The answers, gathered from state-of-the-art scientific skeletal analysis, are remarkably detailed. Until fairly recently, scientists could only piece together the story of the early Chesapeake colonists from historical documents. Visitors to this exhibit will experience a vivid demonstration of how mysteries "locked" in our own skeleton and those hundreds of years old can be revealed. With the application of sophisticated modern forensic anthropology, archaeology, and historical research to recently excavated 17th century remains, the colonists themselves can tell their stories –- a legacy written in bone.

Among the Jamestown artifacts for the two-year loan are several objects currently featured in the Nathalie P. and Alan M. Voorhees Archaearium. These include the skeleton of Captain Bartholomew Gosnold and the finial from the ceremonial staff found in his grave. Dr. William Kelso, Director of Archaeology at Historic Jamestowne said “Gosnold was the primary force behind the expedition to Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America, but his efforts have, for the most part, been lost to history. The opportunity to share Dr. Owsley's research at Jamestown with Smithsonian visitors provides a unique opportunity to share the story of Captain Gosnold with a vast international audience and feature the significance of the role he played at Historic Jamestowne and the role he played ultimately in the birthplace of America.”

While Gosnold's skeletal remains and other exhibited artifacts are on loan to the Smithsonian for Written in Bone, they will be represented in the Archaearium by full-scale fret-cut images. Visitors to the Archaearium also have the opportunity to view an exceptional collection of over 1,000 artifacts uncovered from ongoing excavations of James Fort, by the Jamestown Rediscovery archaeological team, including a new display of several rare artifacts found during this summer's dig season.


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