Landscape reconstructions are now common in historical archaeology but climatic reconstructions are still infrequent. Period accounts of the Jamestown colony’s first decade indicate considerable stress that has begged satisfactory explanation. A baldcypress tree-ring study was initiated as an independent means of climatic reconstruction in the lower Chesapeake region. The findings clearly document severe drought during the first years of the Jamestown colony. The implications of these findings enrich and clarify the first-person accounts of stress due to famine, poor water quality, intercultural hostility, and extreme mortality. The results also demonstrate the value of interdisciplinary studies in historical archaeology and should encourage more routine consideration of climate as a significant factor in the historical events of the United States.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Anderson, David G. 1994 The Savannah River Chiefdoms: Political Change in the Late Prehistoric Southeast. University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa.
Anderson, David G., David W. Stahle, and Malcolm K. Cleaveland 1995 Paleoclimate and the Potential Food Reserves of Mississippian Societies: A Case Study from the Savannah River Valley. American Antiquity, 60(2):258–286.
Arber, Edward (editor) 1910 Travels and Works of Captain John Smith. John Grant, Edinburgh, Scotland.
Barbour, Philip L. (editor) 1969 The Jamestown Voyages Under the First Charter, 1606–1609. Cambridge University Press, London, England.
Billings, Warren M. 1991 Jamestown and the Founding of the Nation. Thomas Publications, Gettysburg, PA.
Blanton, Wyndham B. 1930 Medicine in Virginia in the Seventeenth Century. William Byrd Press, Richmond, VA.
Earle, Carville 1979 Environment, Disease, and Mortality in Early Virginia. In The Cheseapeake in the Seventeenth Century: Essays on Anglo-American Society, Thad W. Tate and David L. Ammerman, editors, pp. 96–125. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill.
Fausz, J. Frederick 1977 The Powhatan Uprising of 1622: A Historical Study of Ethnocentrism and Cultural Conflict. Ph.D. dissertation, Department of History, The College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA. University Microfilms International, Ann Arbor.
Gille, Ed, Jonathan Overpeck, Tom Karl, Ned Guttman, Ed Cook, David Meko, David Stahle, and Malcolm Cleaveland 1998 North American Drought Variability Data Set. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Geophysical Data Center Paleoclimatology Program, Boulder, CO.
Gleach, Frederic W. 1997 Powhatan’s World and Colonial Virginia: A Conflict of Cultures. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln.
Horton, Tom, and William M. Eichbaum 1991 Turning the Tide: Saving the Chesapeake Bay. Island Press, Washington, DC.
Johnson, Gerald H., Dennis B. Blanton, and Carl H. Hobbs III 1995 Late Quaternary Sea Level Change and Human Occupation of Jamestown Island, Virginia. Paper presented at the 1st SEPM Congress on Sedimentary Geology: “Linked Earth Systems,” St. Pete Beach, FL.
Kelso, William M. 1995 Jamestown Rediscovery I: Search for 1607 James Fort. Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, Jamestown.
Kelso, William M., Nicholas M. Luckketti, and Beverly A. Straube 1997 Jamestown Rediscovery III. Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, Jamestown.
Kupperman, Karen Ordahl 1988 Captain John Smith: A Select Edition of His Writings. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill.
Lewis, Clifford, and Albert Loomie 1953 The Spanish Jesuit Mission in Virginia, 1570–1572. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill.
Mrozowski, Stephen A. 1994a Contextual Archaeology at Jamestown. Jamestown Archaeological Assessment Newsletter, 1 (2–3): 1–4.
1994b Contextual Archaeology at Jamestown. Paper presented at the Middle Atlantic Archaeology Conference, Ocean City, MD.
Noël Hume, Ivor 1994 The Virginia Adventure: Roanoke to Jamestown, An Archaeological and Historical Odyssey. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY.
Office of the State Climatologist 1998 Virginia Climate Advisory, 22(3):8. Office of the State Climatologist, University of Virginia, Charlottesville.
Orser, Charles E., Jr. (editor) 1996 Images of the Recent Past: Readings in Historical Archaeology. AltaMira Press, Walnut Creek, CA.
Potter, Stephen R. 1993 Commoners, Tribute, and Chiefs: The Development of Algonquian Culture in the Potomac Valley. University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville.
Prugh, B.J., P. E. Herman, and D. L. Belval 1992 Water-Data Report VA-91-1. U.S. Geological Survey, Richmond, VA.
Quitt, Martin H. 1995 Trade and Acculturation at Jamestown, 1607–1609: The Limits of Understanding. The William and Mary Quarterly 52(2):227–258.
Stahle, David W., and Malcolm K. Cleaveland 1992 Reconstruction and Analysis of Spring Rainfall over the Southeastern U.S. for the Past 1000 Years. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 73(12):1947–1961.
Stahle, David W., Malcolm K. Cleaveland, Dennis B. Blanton, Matthew D. Therrell, and David A. Gay 1998 The Lost Colony and Jamestown Droughts. Science, 280:564–567.
Stahle, David W., Malcolm K. Cleaveland, and J. G. Hehr 1985 A 450-year Drought Reconstruction for Arkansas, United States. Nature, 316:530–532.
1988 North Carolina Climate Changes Reconstructed from Tree Rings: A.D. 372 to 1985. Science, 240:1517–1519.
Tyler, Lyon G. 1946 Narratives of Early Virginia, 1606–1625. Original Narratives of Early American History series. Reprint of 1907 edition, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, NY. Barnes & Noble, New York, NY.
Wright, Louis B. (editor) 1964 A Voyage to Virginia in 1609: Two Narratives, Strachey’s “True Repertory ” and Jourdain’s Discovery of the Bermudas. University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville.
About this article
Cite this article
Blanton, D.B. Drought as a factor in the Jamestown colony, 1607–1612. Hist Arch 34, 74–81 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03374329