Historians have discovered four bodies and a mystery Catholic reliquary under the first English Protestant church in America.
In an extraordinary turn of events, graves have been discovered under what used to be the floor of America’s first Protestant church in Jamestown, Virginia – the church where Pocahontas married the English colonist John Rolfe.
The graves include the bodies of Captain William West, who was killed by Indians, Rev Robert Hunt, Jamestown’s first Anglican minister and Sir Ferdinando Wainman, the first English knight buried in America.
The grave of Captain Gabriel Archer, who died during the “starving time” when colonists were reduced to eating rats and even each other, has also been discovered.
On top of the captain’s coffin was a small silver box, marked with the letter “M”, which historians believe was a Catholic reliquary used for keeping the bones of saints.
A CT scan revealed that the box contained what looks like seven human bone fragments and a lead vial for blood or holy water.
The four graves were discovered in 2013 and historians have been working ever since to identify the graves.
The identities of the dead were announced at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington.
One theory behind the discovery is that Captain Archer’s parents in England were recusants and historians think it is possible that the captain was a Catholic spy working for the Spanish who was executed by the English.
Alternatively, the box could have simply been a Catholic remnant that had been adopted by Jamestown’s Protestant church.