‘Secrets of the Dead: Jamestown’ Digs Deep to Excavate a Dark Truth About the First Colony (VIDEO)


It’s no secret that when English settlers first arrived in America, they struggled to survive. But they had other secrets that lied buried deep (literally), as is the case with the first permanent colony established in Jamestown, Virginia more than 400 years ago. And a new Secrets of the Dead: Jamestown’s Dark Winter special tries to shed light on a troubling mystery.

Two years after the colony was created in 1607, a ship sailing from England to Virginia encountered storms that decimated people on board and much-needed supplies. This proved a bad turn of events, as a long and difficult winter soon came, and the colonists’ relationship with a nearby Native American tribe quickly soured. With scarce food sources and supplies and no help, the colonists slowly starved to death.

In 2012, archaeologists who’ve worked on excavating Historic Jamestowne for over 20 years found bones of a 14-year-old girl (dubbed “Jane). Only a skull and a severed leg were discovered, scattered among garbage. But the skull was covered in strange marks that suggested Jane was either murdered or met a violent death…possibly via cannibalism. And of the 300 original colonists, only 60 had survived…leaving the archaeologists to wonder: Did they survive by killing and/or eating one another?

Take a look at the exclusive clip above to watch the recreation of dramatic Jamestown scenes and to hear researchers speculate on what might have happened years ago.

Secrets of the Dead: Jamestown’s Dark Winter, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 10/9c, PBS (check local listings)