Remains of Four Early American Leaders Discovered Together With Catholic Artifact


Bodies of Rev. Robert Hunt, Capt. Gabriel Archer, Sir Ferdinando Wainman, and Capt. William West found among Catholic artifacts.

Last week, the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation, headed by director William Keslo, finally announced the discovery of the gravesite and remains of the four earliest leaders of colonial America. The remains, which are buried on the floor of the oldest Protestant Church in the U.S., were originally found in November 2013 but experts held the announcement until the identity of the four remains were eventually confirmed.

The four remains were identified as Rev. Robert Hunt, Capt. Gabriel Archer, Sir Ferdinando Wainman, and Capt. William West. Earlier before the remains were discovered, the original James Fort was found. And within the first English settlement in Jamestown, Virginia, archaeologist have unearthed the ruins of the very first Anglo or Protestant Church in America in 2010.

It’s the same church where the Englishman John Rolfe married the notable Indian Pocahontas which eventually paved the way for peace between the natives and English settlers and the start of the colonial period. Historians also note the discovered church as the birthplace of Judeo-Christian faith in America. They also note that the Church of England became successful in part because it became the natives’ partner in defending the country against Spanish conquistadores who are already advancing in the south that time.

The first remains identified were that of Rev. Robert Hunt. Hunt was considered to be the first Anglican minister not only in Jamestown but the whole America during the period. He was also believed to be the peacemaker between the rivaling colonial leaders.

The second man identified was Capt. Gabriel Archer who was noted to be the arch nemesis of then colonial leader John Smith. He was the leader of the earliest expeditions made in Jamestown. And one of the clues to his identity was the presence of a Captain’s leading staff in his coffin which suggested his military status.

The third remains were of Sir Ferdinando Wainman, the very first English knight to be buried in America. And the fourth remains were of Capt. William West who was thought to have died while fighting the Powhatan Indians. Wainman and West were believed to be related to Sir Thomas West popularly known as the 3rd Baron De La Warr, who headed the rescue efforts to prevent Jamestown colony from collapsing. Until now, archaeologists are still trying the find the gravesite of the baron.

Catholic artifact found in Archer’s grave

One of the major puzzles in the recently announced discovery was the presence of a Catholic reliquary or artifact in Capt. Archer’s coffin. A reliquary is used as a container for holy relics in the Catholic Church. And the small silver box found in Archer’s grave contains seven pieces of bones and a lead ampulla designed to store holy water.

Although the Captain’s parents were known to be Catholics even during the time when Catholicism was prohibited in England, historians are puzzled whether Archer is also hiding his Catholic religion or perhaps, the reliquary was just repurposed for the early Anglican Church.

Some experts also theorized that the Captain was in fact a Spanish spy whose main goal is to prevent the colonial advance particularly of John Smith.

All the artifacts found in the site shall be displayed at the Historic Jamestown. Anthropologists at the Smithsonian National Museum of History who has been helping the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation also prepared 3D scans of the discoveries for the benefit of the public.


Follow the Conversation on Twitter