DNA can't identify 400-year-old skeleton thought to be Jamestown founder's
Scientists' hopes that DNA testing would identify a nearly 400-year-old skeleton found at Jamestown have been dashed, but they remain confident that the remains are those of an unsung founder of North America's first English settlement.
American and British scientists had hoped DNA they believe to be of Bartholomew Gosnold would match with that of a woman buried in England who they had thought was his sister. Tests, however, found the woman wasn't a blood relative of Gosnold, the nonprofit Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities announced Thursday.
"Was I disappointed? Of course," said Bill Kelso, the association's director of archaeology at Jamestown. "A lot of work went into this."
Kelso remains convinced, however, that researchers have correctly identified Gosnold based on historical, archaeological and forensic evidence.
"It's all come together," he said.
Gosnold, a former privateer, discovered and named Massachusetts' Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard in 1602, and captained one of three ships that carried settlers from England to Virginia in 1607. He died three months later, at age 36.
Historians, who relied on written accounts of Jamestown's founding from Capt. John Smith and other settlers, largely overlooked Gosnold. Smith, however, described him as "the prime mover behind the settlement."
A nearly intact skeleton of a European man in his mid- to late 30s was found in 2002 near the site of the Jamestown fort. Evidence such as a coffin _ usually reserved at the time for people of higher status _ and a decorative captain's staff on its lid have led researchers to believe the remains are Gosnold's.
"We have never found any other ceremonial objects in Jamestown burials, so we know this was someone very special," Kelso said.
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