Jamestowne, Virginia could be underwater by 2075

The incredibly historic site is under constant threat due to climate change. If nothing is done in 50 years, we could lose pieces of history.

WASHINGTON – Jamestown, Virginia is one of the most historic sites in the United States. But, like many coastal towns, it is under constant threat from climate change. The combination of rising tides and more intense rainfall has earned Jamestown a spot on the National Trust For Historic Preservation’s list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

English settlers first set foot in Jamestown over 400 years ago. The colonists would hold the first English representative government in North America at this site.

In 1619, this is where some of the first Africans were brought to be enslaved against their will. The island was also home to the Powhatan people for hundreds of years before the English arrived.

According to David Givens, director of archeology at the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation, these three aspects of the founding history of the United States are what we stand to lose due to climate change. He said climate change is not something conceptual or far in the future – it’s part of his daily life.

“These coastal storms that dump four inches in two hours onto property, it’s more and more [common]”, Givens said. “Normally that wouldn’t be a problem, except that the island and its infrastructure was set up in the 1950s and just can’t handle four inches of rain. When you have a coastal storm above 1.6 feet of sea level elevation, you get this amplified flooding, and it affects archaeology.

In just 28 years, Givens and his team have uncovered over 3 million historical artifacts during their archaeological digs. If Jamestown falls under water, as predicted in just over 50 years, millions more artifacts could disappear for good.

“We are literally seeing history melt away,” Givens said, pointing to the dig site where his team made the stunning discovery of evidence of cannibalism in 2013. touched by John Smith. For example, there are poignant moments in your career where you find things and you really say “wow”, and these are things that are in danger of being lost with climate change.

Historic Jamestown needs a lot of work to fight climate change. First on the list is the repair of the dyke. Michael Lavin of the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation told WUSA9 that storm surges were causing the levee to slide into the James River.

“If we lost the levee, the James River would literally run through our property,” Lavin said. “The cradle of America is in danger.”

The Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation depends in part on donations to fund its climate change resilience plan, but Lavin is also calling on local leaders to step in.

“With this master plan that we are creating, we believe we would be able to approach and save Jamestown for the future. But it will take something more than a small nonprofit can raise on its own. We’re going to need local, state, and federal government appropriations to deal with these issues,” Lavin said.

You can find out more about the project HERE.

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