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Preservation Virginia > Jamestown Rediscovery > Jamestown Island > What to see at Jamestown > Old Towne > First Fort - James Fort

James Fort

Excavations at James Fort
Soon after the settlers landed they began to build a fort. George Percy reported that "the fifteenth of June, we had built and finished our Fort, which was triangle wise: having three Bulwarkes [one] at every corner, like a halfe Moone, and four or five pieces of Artillerie mounted in them." This fort burned in January 1608 and was apparently replaced almost immediately.

William Strachey writing in 1614 indicated that the river side of the fort was about 120 yards long and the other two sides were about 100 yards each. Surrounding the fort was a pallazado or stockade made of oak and poplar poles each about 14 feet high and 8 to 10 inches in diameter. The fort enclosed an area of about one acre. In the fall of 1608, the pallazado was extended to enclose an additional three acres and the fort became five-sided. John Smith stated that the fort had 24 guns of different types in 1609. Four years later a Spanish prisoner reported that there were only six.

Like unveiling a long-lost mosaic, Preservation Virginia archaeologists remove soil accumulated over nearly four centuries to reveal the footprint of 1607 James Fort. Traces of the original trenches dug by settlers to support their protective timber walls represent the "triangular-wise" shape of James Fort described by the earliest colonists. A semi-circular palisade trench and ditch mark the location of a bulwark, a defense located at the corners of the fort. Soil stains left by the decayed timber supports of a building and a deep pit filled with discarded armor and weapons are evidence of the daily life of soldiers during their challenging first years of settlement. Come join us as we continue to reveal "The Buried Truth" of James Fort and Jamestown, the birthplace of America.


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