Jamestown Rediscovery
July 29, 2015 12:51 PM   Subscribe

Yesterday, the Jamestown Rediscovery and the Smithsonian Institution announced that they had identified the remains of Capt. Gabriel Archer, Rev. Robert Hunt, Sir Ferdinando Wainman and Capt. William West, four of the earliest leaders of the Jamestowne settlement. Among Archer's remnants was a small silver box that researchers have identified as a Roman Catholic reliquary. posted by roomthreeseventeen (22 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
This is AWESOME.
posted by Melismata at 1:18 PM on July 29, 2015

I was curious about the leading staff buried with Archer. Essentially they're ceremonial spears that act as a symbol of rank. As mentioned, the one found earlier in Gosnold's grave was more intact.

It's not mentioned in these articles, but they're lucky to find as many items as they did.
Artifacts are rarely found with 17th-century English burials except in cases when the body was thought to carry a contagious disease.
posted by zamboni at 1:28 PM on July 29, 2015

I read about this yesterday and really want there to have been a Catholic conspiracy at Jamestown, because I really just do.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:36 PM on July 29, 2015 [4 favorites]

So, how long can one stay safely entombed before it's OK for the archeologists to start scurrying about and digging you up?
posted by leotrotsky at 1:37 PM on July 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think for as long as one has descendents who would complain.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:38 PM on July 29, 2015 [4 favorites]

In that case, uh oh.

though I suppose they're not complaining, yet.
posted by leotrotsky at 1:42 PM on July 29, 2015

So, how long can one stay safely entombed before it's OK for the archeologists to start scurrying about and digging you up?

For human remains on public land owned by the federal government it's 100 years plus a requirement of archaeological interest. 16 USC § 470bb(1). Other federal, state, or local laws may apply.
posted by jedicus at 1:48 PM on July 29, 2015 [14 favorites]

I heard about this yeterday on NPR's All Things Considered, where they touched on the remarkable find of what appears to be a Catholic reliquary buried in what is otherwise an Anglican graveyard in an Anglican colony. As noted in the TPM article linked below the break in the OP, In the early 17th century, England had been non-Catholic for going on a century, so any Catholics were likely "closeted" to some degree, but as also noted in that article, "you're not around to bury yourself," so there were some other Catholics or Catholic sympathizers in the colony.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:51 PM on July 29, 2015

A secret Catholic reliquary at Jamestown sounds like it would be a pretty good plot hook for Sleepy Hollow, if any of the writers cared about actual things from real American history instead of just making up whole-cloth poppycock like Ben Franklin-stein's Monster or the holographic AI Thomas Jefferson.
posted by Strange Interlude at 1:58 PM on July 29, 2015 [8 favorites]

Yeah, um, I wouldn't open that box
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 2:13 PM on July 29, 2015

Someday someone may dig up your bones and put pictures of them on a website.
posted by ColdChef at 3:17 PM on July 29, 2015 [4 favorites]

Well, to be fair, maybe he found it and just thought it was cool? Catholics were in Virginia over a quarter-century before Jamestown was founded.
posted by resurrexit at 3:18 PM on July 29, 2015

Someday someone may dig up your bones and put pictures of them on a website.

I probably won't mind.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 3:25 PM on July 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Well, to be fair, maybe he found it and just thought it was cool?

It says in the about him bit on the site that his parents were known to be devout Catholics, fined for holding secret masses in the 1580s or summat.
posted by Diablevert at 3:52 PM on July 29, 2015

It could also be an Anglican reliquary.
posted by disclaimer at 3:54 PM on July 29, 2015

They were recusants, meaning they were in the Anglican Church but wouldn't have participated in any religious ceremonies.
posted by disclaimer at 3:56 PM on July 29, 2015

I thought that recusant was basically a synonym for Catholic.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:04 PM on July 29, 2015

This is pretty much my catnip writing prompt.
posted by boo_radley at 4:12 PM on July 29, 2015

Most recusants were certainly what we'd call Roman Catholics, but there were others from other Catholic and Protestant sects. I'd hate to say how many were technically Anglicans through baptism - as far as I know, nobody got rebaptised when Henry VIII declared himself the head of the English Catholic Church, and there was a long period where Rome vacillated about whether members of the English Church under Henry were still Roman Catholics in good standing. And the early English Church under Henry was very similar to Roman Catholicism; it was later that iconoclasm took hold and the churches were stripped of their finery, statues toppled and reliquaries removed. And there were very many shades of conformity, especially privately.

It was a lot clearer by the time of Elizabeth, who introduced laws specifically aimed at 'Popish recusants'. Basically, if you didn't go to an Anglican church regularly without good reason you were a criminal. What happened as a result varied wildly.
posted by Devonian at 7:17 PM on July 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

Nice long article on this over at smithsonian.com.
posted by gudrun at 10:24 AM on July 30, 2015

Priest's hole?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:41 PM on July 30, 2015

Oh, I was hoping someone would post this--I checked the day it came out and then missed it, and was close enough to it that I thought it might risk self-promotion. I was peripherally involved with some of the CT work (the images of the metal fringe came from measurements on the CT I use most days and I was sneaking around the edges of the frame while they filmed my colleague.) I've been trying to not tell people about cool little metal boxes and seeing into mysterious ugly plywood boxes full of dirt for a few months now. The three places that did that imaging, and the folks who put all the 3D visuals together, did pretty amazing work. Silver's not much worse than lead in terms of shielding from x-rays, so looking at a tiny lead object encased in a silver package was tricky to say the least--you can shine x-rays at it but not many of them get through, so you need long exposure times or suuuper high-energy light sources (which is why they eventually needed to bring it to GE.)

The news outlets have really glommed onto the "Catholic conspiracy" theory but it's just one of a bunch of possibilities about the reliquary. Could have been a family heirloom.
posted by tchemgrrl at 1:31 PM on August 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

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