Media: Slideshow

Gabriel Archer's Grave

Silver Reliquary From the Grave of Gabriel Archer

This artifact, a silver box encrusted with a green patina, was excavated in 2013 from a burial site in the chancel of the first Protestant church in historic Jamestown. The box was found atop the coffin of Gabriel Archer, one of the original settlers of the Virginia colony. Archaeologists and historians at Jamestown Rediscovery speculate that this might be a Catholic reliquary, which would indicate the presence of Catholics among the early inhabitants of the English Protestant settlement. In this photograph the silver box sits stop fragments from Archer's wooden coffin.

Original Author: Preservation Virginia

Created: ca. 1610, objects; November 2013, photograph

Medium: Silver reliquary and coffin fragments

Courtesy of Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation / Preservation Virginia

Conserved Silver Reliquary From Gabriel Archer's Grave

This silver, hexagonal box discovered atop the coffin of Gabriel Archer, one of the first settlers of the Virginia colony at Jamestown, has been conserved to its original luster. When unearthed by archaeologists in 2013, the box was encrusted with a thick patina. Restoration uncovered an "M' etched into the top of the artifact, but the box cannot be opened because of severe corrosion. CT cans, however, reveal that inside the box there are bone shards and a small, lead ampulla, or flask-like object used to hold holy water, oil, or blood. Archaeologists and historians at Jamestown Rediscovery have speculated as follows:

The presence of this reliquary, a sacred object normally (but not exclusively) associated with Catholicism, may suggest Archer was a secret Catholic. Alternatively, the object could have held significant meaning in the founding of the established church, the Church of England, in the New World.

Original Author: Preservation Virginia

Created: ca. 1610, object; January 2015, photograph

Medium: Silver reliquary

Courtesy of Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation / Preservation Virginia

Fragment of a Staff Recovered From Gabriel Archer's Grave

This three-inch-long iron fragment is the linchpin of a leading staff—an object that denoted the ceremonial rank of captain in the seventeenth century. Excavated in 2013 from a burial site in the chancel of the first Protestant church in historic Jamestown, this artifact was found alongside the coffin of Gabriel Archer, one of the original settlers of the Virginia colony. The presence of a staff next to Archer's coffin indicated his prominence, and helped the archaeologists and historians at Jamestown Rediscovery identify who was buried in the gravesite. Archer died during the Starving Time that took place in Virginia during the winter of 1609–1610. Archaeologists in Jamestown speculate that a broken staff might have been intentionally placed inside the grave as a sign of the life-threatening conditions the colonists were then enduring. This photograph depicts a digital reconstruction of an intact staff.

Original Author: Preservation Virginia

Created: ca. 1610, object; July 2015, photograph

Medium: Staff fragment

Courtesy of Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation / Preservation Virginia

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  • Silver Reliquary From the Grave of Gabriel Archer

    This artifact, a silver box encrusted with a green patina, was excavated in 2013 from a burial site in the chancel of the first Protestant church in historic Jamestown. The box was found atop the coffin of Gabriel Archer, one of the original settlers of the Virginia colony. Archaeologists and historians at Jamestown Rediscovery speculate that this might be a Catholic reliquary, which would indicate the presence of Catholics among the early inhabitants of the English Protestant settlement. In this photograph the silver box sits stop fragments from Archer's wooden coffin.

    Original Author: Preservation Virginia

    Created: ca. 1610, objects; November 2013, photograph

    Medium: Silver reliquary and coffin fragments

    Courtesy of Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation / Preservation Virginia

  • Conserved Silver Reliquary From Gabriel Archer's Grave

    This silver, hexagonal box discovered atop the coffin of Gabriel Archer, one of the first settlers of the Virginia colony at Jamestown, has been conserved to its original luster. When unearthed by archaeologists in 2013, the box was encrusted with a thick patina. Restoration uncovered an "M' etched into the top of the artifact, but the box cannot be opened because of severe corrosion. CT cans, however, reveal that inside the box there are bone shards and a small, lead ampulla, or flask-like object used to hold holy water, oil, or blood. Archaeologists and historians at Jamestown Rediscovery have speculated as follows:

    The presence of this reliquary, a sacred object normally (but not exclusively) associated with Catholicism, may suggest Archer was a secret Catholic. Alternatively, the object could have held significant meaning in the founding of the established church, the Church of England, in the New World.

    Original Author: Preservation Virginia

    Created: ca. 1610, object; January 2015, photograph

    Medium: Silver reliquary

    Courtesy of Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation / Preservation Virginia

  • Fragment of a Staff Recovered From Gabriel Archer's Grave

    This three-inch-long iron fragment is the linchpin of a leading staff—an object that denoted the ceremonial rank of captain in the seventeenth century. Excavated in 2013 from a burial site in the chancel of the first Protestant church in historic Jamestown, this artifact was found alongside the coffin of Gabriel Archer, one of the original settlers of the Virginia colony. The presence of a staff next to Archer's coffin indicated his prominence, and helped the archaeologists and historians at Jamestown Rediscovery identify who was buried in the gravesite. Archer died during the Starving Time that took place in Virginia during the winter of 1609–1610. Archaeologists in Jamestown speculate that a broken staff might have been intentionally placed inside the grave as a sign of the life-threatening conditions the colonists were then enduring. This photograph depicts a digital reconstruction of an intact staff.

    Original Author: Preservation Virginia

    Created: ca. 1610, object; July 2015, photograph

    Medium: Staff fragment

    Courtesy of Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation / Preservation Virginia