Finding Beth

Unless you're an archeologist or a history buff, Jamestown, Virginia, and James Fort in particular, have nothing to offer in late July except long, hot, boring days. I should know. This is my sixth summer here.

So I'm surprised by the return of Cade Winslow, archeology geek, former best friend, and first love. And the first guy to break my heart.

And I'm shocked, when sitting alone near the banks of the James River, I hear a voice. Even more shocking is the request that I find his true love, a woman who died just hours after him....over four hundred years ago.

I've never heard voices before, never considered psychic experiences as real. So it's difficult to trust in a voice that keeps commanding me to 'find Beth.' But as I collect pebbles in my hand, the voice grows stronger, more insistent. And I slowly recognize the pebbles in my hand are not rock, but bone. Human bone.

Maybe it's good after all that Cade's back.



Fun Facts

Finding Beth was born out of a visit to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. The exhibit "Bones" sparked that first 'what if' question. Along the way, I came across some fascinating facts about early Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the new land, America.


How much longer?

It took the first ships from the Virginia Company in London four and a half months to make the trip from England to Virginia, over twice as long as they expected. Do you know what route they took? Why did it take so long?


Do we have to go?

The men who formed the Virginia Company, and the men who made the first voyage were looking for ways to make money. They hoped to find gold. (No such luck in Virginia!) They were looking for a quicker trade route to the orient. (Another strike out!) And they wanted to convert the natives to Christianity. (How'd they know the natives were here?)


Not a Slacker in the bunch

The first men to arrive and settle at what is now known as Jamestown were busy people. Look at their time line:

May 14, 1607: The English set foot for the first time on Jamestown Island.

May 27, 1607: A fort had already been built that was strong enough to help repel the first major attack by natives.

June 15, 1607: A new, fortified structure, James Fort, was completed. Now here's what blows my mind. This new fort was built with timber walls (palisades). Remember - there were no power tools, no chain saws. Each tree had to be felled with an ax. Each hole for each tree trunk had to be dug by hand. Each 800 pound log (yes, 800 pounds!) had to be carried to the site, then lifted straight up and dropped into its hole. And they did this for 900 feet of walls. The last kicker - all of this was accomplished by less than 100 men! What do you think the conditions were like for these hard working men? Would the weather/time of year have helped or hurt their efforts?


Get out your dental floss

Tooth decay was a common problem at this time - to the point of death. A broken tooth or a cavity introduced infection into the jaw and eventually into the blood stream. Many skeletal remains from this time show serious deterioration of the jaw bone from such infection. (Maybe brushing your teeth twice a day isn't such a bad idea!)


Who am I?

As archeologists excavate the early settlement of James Fort, they are uncovering many burial sites. Identifying the reamins is often an educated guess. Bet there are clues to help guide them.

1) Gender differentiation is made by looking at the pelvic bones and skulls. Do you know what indentifies male vs. female?

2) Age can be determined by teeth and the long bones. How can teeth help reveal age? What changes occur in our bones as we get older? (Think of changes occurring while growing from childhood to adulthood. These people didn't live very long).

3) Heritage was easily distinguished by looking at the skull. There were only three distinct cultures represented in the Jamestown area at that time: African, European, and Native American. Can you name some of the identifying facial structures that would differentiate these groups?

4) Mineral deposits left in the bones help determine what specific region a person came from. What would cause mineral deposits to be different from one person to the next? From one region to the next?