Greetings Cosmic Americans!
The axiom about archaeology is true enough. But in this case it has led to what some note as a troubling conundrum. Imagine the discovery of traces of the first permanent English settlement at Jamestown. Without question - a site worth uncovering, dissecting, and cataloging. But what if archeologists had to destroy the remnants of some Confederate earthworks to get at it? That is precisely what is happening. The traces of Confederate Fort Pocahontas sit directly on top of and next to the early settlement's Fort James, an enclosure originally encompassing a little over an acre.
Sites related to two central episodes in American history are thus in conflict. According to an article in the Washington Post, "because much of the original fort is buried underneath a Confederate earthwork...these discoveries forced a painful historical and archaeological trade-off. To reveal James Fort, nearly half of Fort Pocahontas has been removed. In the process, invaluable traces of America’s founding have been discovered right next to remains from the Civil War. 'It’s probably the only place you would have a story like that,' says Colin Campbell, president of Colonial Williamsburg, citing the conjunction of two pivotal moments in U.S. history. 'I think it’s absolutely fascinating.'"
In the process of cutting away the Civil War fort, archeologists have unearthed a number of valuable discoveries, such as a remarkably preserved bomb proof, complete with period log supports and sandbags. And, the site is being digitally mapped in 3-D, so it is not completely lost - sort of.
Archeologists based the decision to remove the Confederate fort on its relative insignificance during the war. And, quite obviously, the profound significance of what lies beneath it. While I am generally opposed to destroying any of the few remaining Civil War sites that have not already succumbed to strip malls and other unsightly suburban sprawl, in this case I will side with the Jamestown archeologists. As they say, they are not just digging arbitrarily, and I believe their cause worthwhile in the overall scheme of things. What are your thoughts?