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October 2, 2007

Colonial Williamsburg Electronic Field Trip reveals how archaeologists uncover clues to the past

Colonial Williamsburg’s Electronic Field Trip series begins its 2007 – 2008 season with an encore presentation of “Jamestown Unearthed” in conjunction with the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown. Presented in a slightly different format from the typical Electronic Field Trip, “Jamestown Unearthed” is a documentary that examines how history is written and re-evaluated as new methods of study are introduced and archaeological discoveries offer new clues
to interpreting history.

In May 1607, when 104 English men and boys first stepped onto Jamestown Island, they could not have imagined the impact their arrival would have on the future of the world. Hoping for adventure, escaping the past, longing for riches or a better life, the Jamestown colonists founded America’s first permanent English settlement – and a new nation. These early settlers would never know that everyday items they left behind, from the soles of their shoes to broken pipe stems, would be excavated and examined four centuries later by Jamestown Rediscovery archaeologists. What these archaeologists discovered – and how they used these clues to uncover the past – is the subject of “Jamestown Unearthed.”

The documentary was produced by Colonial Williamsburg’s division of productions, publications and learning ventures in partnership with the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities–Jamestown Rediscovery. The program explores historical myths and misconceptions from the perspective of modern archaeology. Additional Historic Triangle collaboration for the broadcast was provided by the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation and the National Park Service.

The Jamestown Rediscovery excavations in the mid-1990s at James Fort revealed the remains of the fort long believed lost in the James River and demonstrate how archaeology has greatly expanded our understanding of the day-to-day life in early colonial Virginia. Using documents, artifacts and interviews with the project team, the program reveals how a combination of written and archaeological evidence can produce exciting new insights into the past. Students learn how a professional archaeological excavation is conducted and see 21st-century scientific processes archaeologists use to learn about history.

In addition to the contemporary scenes showing archaeologists discovering clues to Jamestown’s past, re-created scenes portray what life may have been like in the early colony.

Students in participating schools may call the program from their classrooms during the broadcast to ask questions live. For “Jamestown Unearthed,” the on-air experts will be Dr. William Kelso, director of archaeology for the Jamestown Rediscovery Project; Beverly Straube, senior curator, Jamestown Rediscovery Project; and Willie Balderson, who portrays 17th-century Jamestown colonist Anas Todkill, servant to Jamestown councilman John Martin.

Electronic Field Trips are broadcast one Thursday each month from October through April at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Eastern time on participating PBS stations and cable channels. Registered users may also view Electronic Field Trips via the Internet. The programs consist of a one-hour live broadcast which includes a story on subjects from the colonial period through the early life of the United States. The productions are supported with comprehensive lesson plans, glossaries, timelines, Internet activities and online connectivity to Colonial Williamsburg historians.

As the nation’s leading educational resource for early American history, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation uses the Internet and interactive television technology to bring the 18th century to life for more than one million students throughout the United States each year. For more information or to register for the Electronic Field Trip Series visit or contact the Electronic Field Trip registrar at 1-800-761-8331 or by e-mail at

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.

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:
Barbara Brown
(757) 220-7280