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January 11, 2007

Fruits and Nuts of the Jamestown Colony

A study funded by the National Geographic Society has recovered a vast array of 400-year-old plant remains from an old well used by the first inhabitants of the Jamestown colony in Virginia. The archaeological world is more excited about the three tobacco seeds, but of course here I'm just interested in the fruit.

Evidence indicates the colonists ate (and threw in the well):
blueberries
blackberries
persimmon
passionfruit
cherries*
grapes
Chickasaw plums
hickory nuts
beech nuts
acorns
black walnuts


* (I'm guessing from the context that these are chokecherries)

All of these would have been gathered from the wild. The colonists had brought seeds, cuttings, and small rooted plants of various species from Europe, but these would not have been bearing in the early years, and the struggling colonists would have had to subsist on whatever they could find (or trade with natives for). By 1629, however, Captain John Smith noted that "peaches, apples, apricots, and figs prosper exceedingly".

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3 Comments:

At 10/30/2008 06:47:00 AM, Blogger reetajenet said...

Virginia Seeds and plant remains preserved in a well at America's first permanent English settlement suggest the Jamestown colonists were not just gentlemen with few wilderness survival skills, as they are often portrayed, but tried to live off the land by gathering berries and nuts.
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Jean


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At 4/02/2012 08:41:00 AM, Anonymous cornerofhope said...

This can't have effect in actual fact, that's exactly what I suppose.

 
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