We traveled to Virginia this summer to visit family and take a trip to the past, for history is the connection between then, now, and the future.
The Jamestown Settlement, (a replica depicting life in 1607, near the original landing site), pushed my imagination to such heights it left me at once breathless and captivated.
Directly behind us is the site of the first landing
Having lived in Europe for twenty years, I was always immersed in history. Just to scratch the surface, the Roman incursion dates back to circa 200 AD, or The Dark Ages (we can go back to Prehistoric Europe, but that’s too far). The continent was once divided by a World War. The 1989 Revolution ended dictators’ reign in the Autumn of Nations era, the end of totalitarianism. And debating politics and history is a European pastime.
It stands to reason that American history fascinates those from the old continent. For a fairly young country, America has a captivating past. A visit to Jamestown and Williamsburg is much like going back in time, especially as archeologists are still digging up the site uncovering skeletons — and not necessarily the bony kind.
Virginia –and more so Jamestown — offers a unique look at America’s birth and her first steps into the world. And bearing witness to the past is an experience no history book can replace.
There are the early growth pains — a small colony, doomed to perish yet extending westward as far as the Mississippi River. And there is, now, an abundance of data solving a paradox — what’s before us cannot be denied — a plethora of artifacts dating back to the beginning of this nation’s story.
Replica of the first colony
A story that started with 214 men and boys, disembarking up James River, struggling to survive, failing and dying en masse. It’s incomprehensible that the few left (fifty of them, maybe) survived with the help of new arrivals, overcame (by terrible means) the natives, then pushed south, north, and later west.
In Jamestown we also had a look at the Powhatan Indians of Virginia, an Algonquian-speaking people (a language spoken from Labrador to South Carolina and west to the Great Plains), at their villages, customs and traditions.
A look at John Smith the British diplomat, and Pocahontas the daughter of Powhatan chief, forging an unlikely partnership.
A look at the first slaves, one among them Angela of Ndongo, West Africa, brought to Virginia in 1619 on a Portuguese slave ship seized by British pirates.
A look at Bartholomew Gosnold, a dominant figure in the Virginia Company of London. Had he not died soon after arrival in Jamestown, Gosnold might have changed the course of history and become the original founding father of this nation.
Sure, on the world stage American is a young country. Yet a visit to Jamestown and Williamsburg turns five hundred years into the Himalayas of histories, each step up the path more overwhelming and breathtaking than the one before.
Image credit: Powhatan Indians, from https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com