Among The Souvenirs

Almost lost on Bly Straube's desk - among the priceless 16th-century artifacts that look suspiciously like lumps of clay - is a drinking glass. It dates to 1995, and it comes from Burger King. On it is a picture of Pocahontas and John Smith, Jamestown's most famous couple.

Ms. Straube likes it. She knows that the Disney film didn't accurately record the story of their lives, but she still smiles when she talks about it.

Unlike anything else on her desk, the glass seems to remind her that the little pieces of pottery and bits of glass she treats with meticulous care belonged to people who last touched them almost 400 years ago.

Take William Strachey's signet ring is another example.

Strachey, a Jamestown resident for only one year, depicted the shipwreck of a British ship off the coast of Bermuda in "A True Reportory of the Wracke and Redemption of Sir Thomas Gates, Knight." William Shakespeare later adapted this account in "The Tempest."

Finds like the signet ring put her labors in perspective, give them life. They also help paint a more accurate picture of life in Jamestown.

"What we're finding is that these guys were not a bunch of bumbling fools," William Kelso says. "Jamestown is traditionally described as a blunder; they sent the wrong people, they chose the wrong place."

Dr. Kelso says historical documents show that many of the "gentlemen dandies" sent over who supposedly didn't know how to cut down a tree were actually seasoned veterans of the Eighty Years War in the Netherlands.

"These guys were not in line to inherit land so they could either choose the clergy or the military, and they chose the military," he says. "These were tough guys, they knew what to do - and the fort survived, so they picked the most strategic place."

"We've giving Jamestown a better image than historians have."

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