A Seed of Empire and Vice Found at Jamestown





They are little specks no bigger than the period that concludes this sentence, but they represent the germ of something enormous: fortune, empire and a national vice that would visit a slow death on millions of people.

Three 400-year-old tobacco seeds recovered recently from the ooze of a colonial well in Jamestown appear to be the first and earliest-known evidence of cultivation by English colonists of a plant that would become the cash crop of a New World empire, a form of living gold that would eventually be shunned as a cancer-causing scourge.

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