Quartz bead Jamestowne
Quartz bead found today at Jamestowne

A sparkling bead: a faceted quartz. Senior Staff Archaeologist Danny Schmidt held up the find of finds from today’s dig, screened out of the clay and sand of a basement in Jamestown Colony. Once abandoned, the basement became a garbage pit, a rich treasure trove for archaeologists today.

Danny should know. He came to Jamestown 21 years ago, in time for the most amazing of discoveries: the fort was not beneath the river, as common knowledge had thought for centuries. It, and the colony, lay on dry ground on Jamestown Island. And so the digs began.

Inside the vault at APVA lay a series of “jigsaw puzzles” using real pieces from the past. Artifacts found in John Smith’s well were laid across one table.

Cups from Holland at Jamestowne
Cups from Holland at Jamestowne
China from China Jamestowne
China from China at Jamestowne
Archaelogical finds by country Jamestowne
Archaelogical finds by country

Curator Merry Outlaw explained some of what we were seeing. Colorful porcelain cups from Holland, including “drug cups” small enough for packaging medicinal herbs. Delft tiles. Real china from China. Jugs from Germany. And so much more.

German jug Jamestowne
A German jug used for drinking

“We put together the edges of the jigsaw puzzle first,” said Mark Summers, the Education Specialist who introduced us to the living, breathing making of history at Jamestowne, first walking us through the Archaearium – a museum with glass floors showing off the excavations of America’s first government building – before a visit to the APVA vault. “Then we keep looking for the pieces.”


A team of archaeologists, Danny among them, swat mayflies this time of year as they sift their way through the basement discovered when they were looking for an extension of the fort. They turn up new pieces of the puzzle daily, proving that truly, history isn’t written in stone. There is always a new mystery to uncover.

Jamestowne dig
Danny at work on the Jamestowne dig
Jamestowne dig
Today’s box of mysteries from the Jamestowne dig