4 Jamestown Leaders ID'd, With Mystery Catholic Relic

Box raises questions about religious life of settlers
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 28, 2015 6:04 PM CDT
4 Jamestown Leaders ID'd, With Mystery Catholic Relic
Bill Kelso, director of archaeology at Jamestown Discover, poses with bone fragments the four men.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

They're not household names—the Rev. Robert Hunt, Capt. Gabriel Archer, Ferdinando Wainman, and Capt. William West—but archaeologists have identified the remains of those four men as high-ranking leaders of Jamestown, reports NPR. In a sign of their importance, the four were buried in a church, the first Protestant one in America, reports AP. Researchers say one of the most intriguing discoveries is a small silver box buried with Archer. It's believed to be a Catholic reliquary, which is odd considering the church was Protestant. A post at the Atlantic calls it a "historical bombshell" because it suggests "researchers may have just discovered proof of an underground community of Catholics—including Archer and perhaps the person who buried him with the relic—who pretended to be Protestants."

It may take a while for historians to piece together the full story. Archer and the others were buried between 1608 and 1610, as the settlement battled starvation and Native Americans, reports the New York Times. Hunt, 39, was the first Anglican minister in America; Archer, 34, was an expeditionary leader and a rival of John Smith; Wainman, 34, was a soldier in charge of ammunition and horses; and West, 24, is described as a gentleman who died in a battle with Native Americans. “This is the first colony, and it’s closely connected to what follows, so what takes place at Jamestown in these early years is not separate from the mainline of development of American society,” says James Horn, the president of Jamestown Rediscovery, which is leading the dig. “This is the beginning of American society, and religion is a very big part of that.” (More discoveries stories.)

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