Doubt surrounds evidence of colonial settlement at Virginia Beach

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An Army archaeologist who recently identified a Virginia Beach site as a previously unknown early Colonial settlement called Henry Towne is to meet Monday with a group of dubious archaeologists and historians.

The Williamsburg-area group thinks the documentary evidence on which the identification is partly based actually refers to a Richmond-area settlement known as Henricus. They also have questions about the date of a group of artifacts originally recovered at the Virginia Beach site in the 1950s.

'I'd never heard of any settlement in that area dating to 1610 and _ just in case I missed it _ I began asking around. No one else had heard of it, either,' said archaeologist Nicholas Luccketti, head of the James River Institute for Archaeology and a discoverer of Jamestown, America's first permanent English settlement.

'Everyone agrees that the reference we've seen is to Henricus,' Luccketti said. 'So unless he's got something that none of us has ever seen, his documents do not refer to someplace that is now in Virginia Beach.'

Archaeologist Randy Amici, who is based at Fort Eustis in Newport News, began to suspect the existence of the previously unrecognized settlement while he studied archaeological resources at and in the vicinity of Fort Story in Virginia Beach.

His primary evidence includes a 1613 letter in which Lt. Gov. Samuel Argall discusses sending a ship to fish off Cape Charles, on Virginia's Eastern Shore, then transporting the catch 'to Henries Towne for the reliefe of such men as were there.'

He also relies upon a new interpretation of 17th-century artifacts recovered from a site near the west bank of the Lynnhaven River in 1955.

Amici agreed to meet with the group, which includes historians Martha McCartney and James Horn and archaeologists Ivor Noel Hume and William Kelso, after they contacted him with questions.

He said that he has found additional supporting evidence.

'We've found five primary documents that indicate our argument is correct _ and this evidence is unmistakable,' he said. 'So we're sticking to our story.'

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