Crypto-Catholics At Jamestown?

The archaeology feeds have been buzzing with news of a discovery at a dig in Jamestown, Virginia. The graves of four people are being excavated, among them prominent leader Captain Jeffrey Archer, one of the leading  opponents of Captain John Smith. This was found with Archer’s coffin (in situ):

archer

Here it is cleaned up:

archer2

Inside they found fragments of bones (obviously relics) and a holy water ampulla. This is a 3D recreation of the inside.

archer3

It’s a reliquary.

Archer was an important leader who was there from the beginning until his death in the harsh winter of 1609/10, when he was given a respectful burial at a time when other settlers may have been reduced to cannibalism.

Jamestown was a Protestant colony, and at the time it was founded Catholic recusants, such as Archer’s father, were being persecuted back home in England. Bringing the scourge of popery to the first permanent English colony in the new world would have been extremely unusual. James Fort was founded only two years after the Gunpowder Plot and the Papal Recusants Act requiring Catholic to take the Oath of Allegiance denying papal authority over the king.  James I may not have been a monster like Elizabeth I, but he hardly would have wanted to plant Catholics in a new world that he was trying to seize from the Spanish. Catholics were never to be trusted.

But now we know that Catholics were at Jamestown. The recent excavations have uncovered rosary beads, a crucifix, and holy medals. Remember that the Reformation in England was not driven by a groundswell of popular belief, but imposed by a tyrant on a population that was fiercely Catholic. Remnants of Catholicism went underground.

And some, it appears, made their way to the new world.

 

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