- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 1, 2007

NORFOLK — A cargo tag that traveled 3,000 miles from England to America’s first permanent English settlement nearly four centuries ago is about to take a much longer journey: into space.

The tag will fly aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis, scheduled for launch March 15, NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton announced Wednesday.

Four commemorative Jamestown 2007 coins also will make the trip, which NASA said honors those who led one of the first phases of American exploration by founding Jamestown in May 1607. An 18-month series of activities to commemorate the colony’s 400th anniversary is under way, with the premier event taking place May 11 to 13.

By the time the shuttle mission ends, the cargo tag will have traveled more than 4 million miles, NASA said, from England to Jamestown, then to the International Space Station and back.

Researchers found the tag at the bottom of a well during an archaeological dig last summer. It most likely is a discarded address label from a crate or a trunk arriving from England by ship between 1611 and 1617, said William M. Kelso, director of archaeology at the Historic Jamestowne site.

“So it’s already traveled 3,000 miles before it got into the bottom of the well,” Mr. Kelso said. “At this point, I think it’s very fitting [that] its adventuresome role is replicated 400 years later with a heck of a lot more miles.”

The flat, rectangular tag made of lead is inscribed “YAMES” and beneath that “TOWNE” — probably an archaic spelling of “Jamestown” — making it the first concrete evidence of Jamestown being used as an address, Mr. Kelso said.

“It implies the story of traveling from a known point to an unknown point, in a way,” Mr. Kelso said. “Although they knew there was a Jamestown out there, it was going to the ‘New World’ or the ‘Other World,’ and that’s exactly what space [travel] is all about.”

Virginia Secretary of Technology Aneesh Chopra presented the artifact and coins to NASA Langley Director Lesa B. Roe in Richmond on Wednesday.

“Remembering the spirit of adventure that led to the establishment of Jamestown is appropriate as this country works toward establishing a permanent outpost on another planetary body,” Miss Roe said.

The space shuttle mission is scheduled to last 11 days but could be extended to as many as 13 days to give the astronauts more time for their tasks.

Afterward, NASA will return the shipping tag to Historic Jamestowne for display in its new archaeological museum showcasing items excavated from the Jamestown site.

NASA also will present one set of the commemorative coins to Gov. Timothy M. Kaine for display at the Jamestown Settlement living history museum. The second set will go on display at the National Park Service’s Historic Jamestowne Visitor Center.

Each set contains a $5 gold piece and a silver dollar.

Jamestown began as a business venture operating under a charter granted by King James 1. Early on, the settlers were nearly wiped out by hunger and disease. Later, tobacco exports helped the colony survive financially. Jamestown was the capital of the Virginia colony until the capital was moved to nearby Williamsburg in 1699.

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