Archaeologists in Jamestown have just discovered an enormous piece of American history after they unearthed the 400-year-old western wall of a very special church that was once the site of the first General Assembly meeting in the United States, which took place in 1619. The Virginia Company of London, who were the official sponsors of the new colony, had set the agenda of ensuring that the Assembly created “just laws for the happy guiding” of the first people of North America here.
According to the Daily Press, archaeologists discovered the wall of this church under a full five inches of dirt, brick, and thick concrete, and David Givens, who is the director of Jamestown Rediscovery, has stated that the remains of the church are a perfect match of the description that was originally written about the site in historical documents.
“It is the intact wall of the 1617 church where representative government in English North America was held in 1619. Never been dug, fully intact, right under the concrete. We freaked out. We pulled it up and we were like what is this brick just sitting here?”
Archaeologists have spent the past two years diligently excavating the site of the first General Assembly in Jamestown, which has hosted four different buildings over the years, including the original 1617 church that was constructed here, followed by another built in the 1640s, the 1680s, and eventually, 1907, when the Memorial Church was placed on the site.
Continued excavation of Jamestown Church reveals the first meeting site of the Virginia General Assembly (in 1619). https://t.co/b53xdHv5nr
— American History Pod (@AmHistoryCast) January 26, 2019
Archaeologists first detected the 400-year-old wall through radar, but weren’t certain what the object was at first. After using a jackhammer and other instruments to break through the concrete of the church, they discovered a 50-foot wall, which was exactly like the one that had been described in historical plans of the Jamestown church.
Architectural historian Carl Lounsbury excitedly exclaimed that he had been waiting for over three decades for part of of the original 1617 church to be revealed at the site of the First Assembly, and noted, “To have this here and to not have been obliterated over the many, many years when it was exposed, or when the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities was here digging in the beginning of the 20th century, is miraculous.”
The wall sits very close to what is believed to be the fort wall which was originally constructed here in 1607. And because the wall is much larger than those used when building its 1640 successor, archaeologists have speculated that the congregations here must have shrunk over time.
Now that archaeologists have discovered the wall of the original church which housed the first General Assembly meeting in Jamestown, excavations will continue until March so that the Memorial Church can be reopened again in April.