Hunt for Gosnold: DNA sample taken

By Rebecca SheppardARCHAEOLOGISTS hoping to prove the identity of one of America's unsung founding fathers have successfully obtained a sample for DNA analysis from a 400-year-old skeleton in Suffolk.

By Rebecca Sheppard

ARCHAEOLOGISTS hoping to prove the identity of one of America's unsung founding fathers have successfully obtained a sample for DNA analysis from a 400-year-old skeleton in Suffolk.

They now hope the DNA can prove the identity of Captain Bartholomew Gosnold, one of America's unsung founding fathers.

After four days of intense exploration at All Saints Church in Shelley, near Ipswich, a team of scientists has uncovered and taken a sample of DNA from the remains of what they believe is Capt Gosnold's sister, Elizabeth Gosnold Tilney.

The sample will now be analysed at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC.

The results will be compared to a sample taken from the remains of a burial excavated in 2003 at Historic Jamestowne in Virginia, believed to be those of Capt Gosnold.

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The project involves scientists representing the Church of England, the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (APVA Preservation) and the Smithsonian Institution.

The remains of Elizabeth Gosnold Tilney were not removed from the ground and immediately after the excavation was completed, the rector, Canon David Stranack, conducted a quiet ceremony over the grave shaft. A plain wooden cross was placed on the remains before the site was covered.

An attempt to locate the remains of Katherine Blackerby, Capt Gosnold's niece, in the family vault beneath the floor of St Peter's and St Mary's Church, in Stowmarket, was unsuccessful.

Suffolk-born Capt Gosnold was the prime mover of the first permanent English-speaking settlement in the New World. He died in 1607, three months after arriving in Virginia.

James Halsall, the Gosnold project co-ordinator for the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, said: "I am delighted with how well the exploration has gone.

"The excavations have been thoroughly professional and the remains have been dealt with respectfully."

Dr William Kelso, director of archaeology for APVA Preservation Virginia, who has overseen the digs, added: "I want to thank the members of the parishes and the diocese for allowing the research to take place and for their patience and assistance throughout the process."

The exploration and DNA analysis are supported by the National Geographic Society and the results of the DNA comparison will be revealed on the National Geographic Channel's programme Explorer later this year.


n Bartholomew Gosnold was born in Grundisburgh, near Woodbridge, and buried at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607, aged 36.

n He lived in Bury St Edmunds and his family seat was at Otley Hall, near Ipswich.

n In 1602 – 18 years before the Pilgrim Fathers left Plymouth in The Mayflower – Captain Gosnold sailed to what was to become New England in his ship Concord.

n During that journey, records show he built a fort on Cuttyhunk Island, named Cape Cod and named Martha's Vineyard after his daughter.

n Five years later he returned on the ship Godspeed and was instrumental in establishing the first permanent English settlement in north America at Jamestown, Virginia.

n Some historians believe that, but for Capt Gosnold, the U.S. would have become Spanish territory.

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