A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
DECEMBER 20:

  • Happy birthday M.B. Goffstein (Fish for Dinner, Brookie and Her Lamb) and Sharon Chmielarz (Down at Angel’s, The Other Mozart: Poems).
  • The Louisiana Purchase was completed at New Orleans ceremony in 1803. Read Louisiana Purchase by Peter and Connie Roop, illustrated by Sally Wern Comport.
  • On this day in 2007, Queen Elizabeth II becomes the oldest ever monarch of the United Kingdom. The previous record holder was Queen Victoria at 81 years 7 months 29 days. Read A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, illustrated by Tasha Tudor and A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver by E.L. Konigsburg.

On December 20, 1606, three small ships—Godspeed, Susan Constant, and Discovery—departed London, England for Virginia. In May of the next year the men and boys on this ship founded the first permanent English settlement in America, Jamestown. Other colonists, including women, joined them in James Fort in 1608. In recent years members of the Jamestown Rediscover Project have tried to fill in gaps about our oldest settlement—by finding remnants of the fort and its surroundings and by reading the historical clues found in bones of its skeletons.

In Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland, one of the best science titles of the past few years for ten- to fourteen-year-olds, Sally M. Walker explains how modern techniques allow scientists to discover all types of details from old bones—how old the individuals were, what they ate, what type of life they lived, how they died, and even who they might be. As they watch forensic anthropologist Doug Owsley coax the stories from these skeletons, readers become familiar with how scientists work and think—and ultimately how they identify two of those first Jamestown settlers, teenage Richard Mutton and captain of the Godspeed, Bartholomew Gosnold. In the process, Walker explains the early history of Jamestown, burying practices, and the lives of the first colonists. Then she travels to other excavations in the Chesapeake Bay area—one even reveals the murder of a young indentured servant, which took place in the 1660s. Discussing how forensic anthropology has contributed to our understanding of history, this fascinating treatise might encourage more than one reader to become part of an archaeological team. History, science, a passion for details, and a reverence for human life saturate these pages, which have been lavishly illustrated with photographs, maps, historical documents, and anatomical drawings.

Today, because of the contribution of Sally Walker, young readers can honor two of our founding ancestors—Richard Mutton and Captain Gosnold. And they can also celebrate the accomplishments of dedicated scientists like Doug Owsley who help us understand our history in greater detail.

Here’s a page from Written in Bone:


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Originally posted December 20, 2010. Updated for .

Tags: Archeology, Colonial America, History, Science
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland
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