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September 30, 2008

What do 400-year-old oyster shells tell us about Jamestown?

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. ? Juliana M. Harding, senior marine scientist, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, discusses “Oyster Shells from the Jamestown Well: Environmental Data Recorders for the Early Years of the Colony” Oct. 14 at 7 p.m. at Colonial Williamsburg’s Kimball Theatre. This program is part of the “Preservation and Exploration in the Shadow of John Smith: 2008 Jamestown Lecture Series.”

Harding examines information contained within 400-year-old oyster shells recovered by archaeologists from a James Fort well describing ecological and environmental conditions in the James River estuary during the early years of Jamestown. Oysters and the reefs that they created were central to the ecology of the Chesapeake Bay prior to the early 20th century. When the colonists arrived in 1607, they would have had to navigate their way through massive three-dimensional oyster reef communities in the James River that were exposed at low tide and created "living" rocks which posed serious hazards to wooden ships. As of the early 21st century, oysters are still present in the Chesapeake Bay but the complex three-dimensional communities that previously dominated the estuarine landscape have been drastically reduced on spatial and ecological scales.

Harding is a community ecologist in the Department of Fisheries Science at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. She earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in biology from the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio. She received a doctorate in marine science from the College of William and Mary.

She has worked in freshwater and marine habitats and enjoys both teaching and research. Some of her recent research has focused on the community ecology and population biology of historic and modern Chesapeake Bay oysters.

Tickets for individual lectures are $10, and a ticket for the entire lecture series can be purchased for $28. For more information, contact the Kimball Theatre box office at (757) 565-8588 or visit

Located in downtown Williamsburg’s Merchants Square, the Kimball Theatre is owned and operated by The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the not-for-profit educational institution that operates the restored 18th-century capital of Virginia. The Kimball Theatre box office is open 1-9:15 p.m.

Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Within the restored and reconstructed buildings, historic interpreters, attired as colonial men and women from slaves to shopkeepers to soldiers, relate stories of colonial Virginia society and culture – stories of our journey to become Americans – while historic trades people research, demonstrate and preserve the 18th-century world of work and industry. As Colonial Williamsburg interprets life in the time of the American Revolution for its guests, it also invites them to interact with history. “Revolutionary City®,” a dramatic live street theater presentation, is a 2008 Rand McNally Best-of-the-Road™ Editor’s Pick. Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at

Media Contact:
Penna Rogers
(757) 220-7121