Jamestown: Archaeology: Eureka!

Experts thought the original fort was now underwater. A maverick archaeologist proved them wrong

Greg Miller for TIME

Archeologist Mary Anna Richardson excavates the site of a Civil War gun platform within the site of James Fort in Jamestown, VA. on March 4, 2007.

When archaeologists first started digging in Jamestown in the 1930s, they turned up more than half a million artifacts--but not a trace of the original fort. In fact, nobody expected to find it. Based on a handful of written eyewitness accounts and two maps, the James Fort was widely believed to have been built at the west end of Jamestown Island, close to the deepwater channel where the colonists presumably moored their ships. The river had washed away some 25 acres of that part of the island long ago, however, and most archaeologists figured the site of the fort had ended...

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