Archaeologists rebuild 1608 church where Pocahontas was married

Partial reconstruction affords a visible marker for the earliest remnants of a church structure in English colonial North America.

About five years after the footprint of the first Jamestown colony church was discovered, archaeologists and other specialists are busy partially reconstructing the structure. Believed to be the place where Pocahontas married the English tobacco planter John Rolfe, archaeologists hope that the reconstruction will provide the public with a real life, physical replica of the building that made history more than 400 years ago near the banks of the James River in southern Virginia. The church was built by the colonists in 1608 initially as a wood structure, then replaced by a brick structure later.

As stated by Jamestown Rediscovery Project Senior Staff Archaeologist David Givens in the project Dig Updates blog, “our intention here is not to recreate the entire church but give some notion of the space, so that when people are standing inside the church they can understand what the walls would have looked like and the fabric of the building.”

Based on the evidence recovered from the initial excavation of the church, archaeologists know that the building was constructed as a ‘mud and stud’ structure, where the walls of the building were constructed of simple wood posts in the ground with mud fill for the walls. Although the original wood construction has long vanished, the dimensions of the posthole traces in the soil and the overall measurements of the soil footprint of the structure matched the dimensions of the early church described in the record by William Strachey, Secretary of the colony. The modern construction crew has attempted to duplicate the construction process followed by the early colonists as much as possible, but are bonding the clay with a concrete/fiberglass compound to ensure visitor security. The original colonists used black rush from the surrounding marshes to obtain a similar bonding effect. 


jamestownchurch2aTransparent graphic overlay in this image shows the dimensions and placement of the first Jamestown colony church, based on archaeological findings. Still screenshot from Youtube video, Experimental archaeology: bringing Jamestown’s early church to life, by Jamestown Rediscovery.


See the video below and the project website for more detailed information.




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