Archaeologists have finally been able to give names to the four bodies of Jamestown settlers which they discovered just a couple of years ago.
In 2013, Douglas Owsley, forensic anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC and the head of the physical anthropology division of the Institute's National Museum of Natural History, along with a team of researchers, unearthed the four bodies near the Jamestown church.
The discovered settlers were then unidentified, and Owsley's team has since been working with archaeologists at the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation to find out who these four men were.
Now, the researchers have finally identified the remains to be those of English Jamestown colony leaders.
According to Owsley, the best part of the job is "When it all becomes clear - the spectacular moments where you understand what's going on."
The original structure of the church near where the bodies were found was first built from mud and wood. Its original footprint was discovered five years ago. It took a bit of a challenge and some time to finally identify the four bodies, since the bones were poorly preserved, leaving only around 30 percent of each skeleton to be recovered.
The location of the remains gave away the first clue to who these men were. The bones were buried in the chancel, a space somewhere at the church's front and surrounding the altar. Such a location was likely reserved for the leaders of the community.
Next, the researchers made a list of the most prominent leaders who died from 1608 to 1617. With the help of some remaining historical records, the team was able to narrow down the list. The researchers also conducted experiments to determine sex and age of death, did chemical tests to examine diet, looked through genealogies and applied high-resolution micro-CT scans to take a closer look at the artifacts that came with the bones.
The series of tests, experiments and further studies led Owsley's team to identify these four men as founding fathers of what is now known as Jamestown.
Sir Ferdinando Wainman. In 1610, Wainman died when he was around 34. He was the cousin of Virginia governor Sir Thomas West and also a relative of one of the four discovered bodies.
Captain William West. After battling with the Powhatan Indians, the Captain died in 1610. A CT scanner detected his military sash which was partly decayed, but able to reveal his identity. Captain West was also found to be related to Wainman.
Captain Gabriel Archer. Buried with an arrow-tipped staff and a silver box, Captain Archer was found to have died in 1609 or 1610 during the time of starvation around the age of 34. The silver box, also called a reliquary, had a lead container for holy water and bone fragments.
Reverend Robert Hunt. Hunt died in 1608 when he was about 39. The Reverend was buried in a much simpler way - in a shroud and facing the west into the direction of the congregation that he headed.