- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 2, 2005

JAMESTOWN, Va. (AP) — Scientists have said they hope to dig beneath the floors of two ancient churches in England for DNA that could help them determine whether remains found at Jamestown belong to one of its major founders.

Researchers from the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities excavated the site of a 400-year-old fort at Jamestown, and think a skeleton discovered there was that of Capt. Bartholomew Gosnold.

The association wants to obtain genetic samples of Gosnold’s sister and niece, who were buried in two churches in Suffolk, England. The Church of England, which owns the sites, has agreed to allow a ground radar survey of the graves.

“The ground radar survey is just the first step,” said James Halsall, a spokesman for the Diocese of St. Edmundsbury and Ipswich.

Several legal and procedural issues must be addressed before digging can start, he said.

Researchers hope to find the women’s graves, take small portions of teeth or bone and see whether DNA from the samples match DNA from the Jamestown skeleton, which was unearthed in early 2003.

“If this is Gosnold, then we’ve found the ‘lost-to-history’ burial of one of the most influential and moving spirits behind English-American colonization,” said William Kelso, archaeology director of the antiquities association.

Although Gosnold is largely unrecognized historically, the captain now is considered a primary organizer and leader of the expedition that led to Jamestown’s founding in 1607 as the first permanent English settlement in North America.

His role apparently was overlooked because he became ill and died at age 35 after arriving in Virginia.

“He should get all the credit” for the Jamestown expedition, Mr. Kelso said. “Unfortunately, he died too early.”

Documents indicate that Gosnold was buried with great ceremony, but the lasting history of the settlement was based on written accounts by other settlers, notably Capt. John Smith.

Gosnold, a former privateer and adventurer who discovered and named Massachusetts’ Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard in 1602, was captain of the Godspeed, one of the three ships that carried Jamestown’s settlers from England.

The peek beneath the church floors with radar is the first step in a process of receiving church permission to excavate.

Diocese officials said a panel established by the church to protect the heritage of its historic buildings will consider the survey’s results. Another church official ultimately must approve the work and issue permits before any digging can start.

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