New(s) @ Axe

News and Events of the Leonard H. Axe Library, and of the
Kansas Technology Center Library - Pittsburg (KS) State University

Friday, May 11, 2007

Display Cases, May – Jamestown

Most of us learned about Jamestown in school. We learned the mythological story of Captain John Smith and the teenaged Native American princess Pocahontas who supposedly threw herself over John’s body to keep her father from killing him. We also learned that the colony, despite being planted in an area abundant with plant and animal life, was a death trap for the unfortunate colonists who moved there. Forty of one hundred and forty four died on a five month sea crossing after which famine, disease and fights with the Indians (and each other) killed more than half of the rest. The colony, after many difficulties, enjoyed some success in planting tobacco before it was gradually abandoned and the capital was moved to Williamsburg. In recent years, thanks to the hard work of archaeologist Dr. William Kelso and the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities the actual fort that the colonists built after their first landing has been found, partly excavated and reconstructed. Many things which were not known about the colonists were found out in the course of the excavations. The excavations of the Fort have taken place only since 1994 because before that, the site was believed to have been washed away by the James River. But Dr. Kelso reread the histories and diaries left by the original colonists and found the fort between the church and the river.

Dr. William Kelso, Archaeologist
and Jamestown’s Newest Founder.

In honor of the 400th anniversary of the first landing at Jamestown (May 14th, 1607) the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation and the National Parks Service is holding a celebration known as “America’s 400th Anniversary” from May 11-May 13. (The site has already hosted Vice President Cheney, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip on May 4th, and will host the President during the Anniversary festivities.) And Axe Library, not wanting to be left out, has put up a display case in honor of the troubled but tenacious colony.

We had the good fortune to have one of our staff members, Mr. Robert Lindsey, our Library Resource Instruction librarian, come back from a trip to Jamestown at the beginning of May. He lent us postcards, fold out brochures and a CD loaded with photos of the archaeological sites, museums and art. He made a great shot of the replicas of the expedition’s three boats, the “Susan Constant”, the “Godspeed” and the “Discovery” and in one of the photos his son Erik, with the help of some watchful re-enactors dressed in period costume, parries a pike, the standard weapon of the British colonists. Among the many publications about Jamestown which are in the case are the latest issue of National Geographic, whose cover story this month is “Jamestown: The Real Story”. Among the many fascinating facts it teaches us are how Jamestown colony with its new cash crops (tobacco) and its domestic animals such as pigs, cattle and goats, reformed the entire landscape of the east coast of Virginia. We also learn that among the diseases which the white man brought to America was malaria, endemic to the swamps of southeastern England (England!?) and which the colonists brought with them in the form of plasmodia in their blood. (If you ever read a novel by Dickens or some other 19th century English novelist, you may have run across the disease known as “ague” characterized by shaking, fever and chills. That’s malaria.)

Photo of present day excavations by
Axe Staff Member, Mr. Robert Lindsey.

We also have numerous books, such as biographies of Captain John Smith, accounts of the history of Jamestown, some written before, some after, the discovery of the fort, and articles from the New York Times, the Washington Post and American History. Websites are also available, such as the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, and the Historic Jamestowne site where they have pictures of numerous artifacts being dug from old cellars, wells and trash heaps close to the fort and many, many more things of interest. Oh, and if you would like to borrow something from the display case, just ask. We will be glad to make our resources available to you.

Heavily corroded rapier hilt,
and hammer from the APVA website.

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