US: Early settlement found near Jamestown

When archaeologist Alain C. Outlaw began exploring the Governor's Land tract in 1975, finding signs of early settlement seemed easy.

Most of the 2,000-acre expanse located along the James River a short way from historic Jamestown was undeveloped farmland, and sometimes all he had to do was walk behind a plow, keeping his eyes peeled for artifacts and old postholes.

Many times he's returned to this historically fertile property, conducting investigations in the late '70s, '80s and early 2000s. But not until this past summer, while testing a newly accessible tract of some 200 acres, did he find the early site that had eluded him for nearly 35 years.

Founded by Lt. Gov. Samuel Argall in 1617, Argall Towne once ranked among the largest and most ambitious if ultimately short-lived settlements outside Jamestown. Some 200 colonists peopled the 300-acre tract, building such an array of what John Rolfe called "good and convenyent houses" that he judged they'd "done the best of all Newcomers."

"It's a really early one — and a huge one — more than 300 feet square," Outlaw says, pointing to the four-sided footprint of the town's sprawling palisade wall.

"I always suspected it would be here. But I couldn't get on to the property. So this has been a real study in persistence."

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