Jamestown, 1607 -- trying to trump Plymouth, 1620?

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JAMESTOWN, Va. —- The first permanent English settlement in North America has more personality than many historic attractions.

Capt. John Smith, the pint-sized adventurer, left a breathless narrative of his exploits.

Commerce took root here, and so did tobacco and slavery.

Then there was the cannibalism.

Still, as the nation prepares to commemorate Jamestown's 400th anniversary in May, many say this swampy outpost on the James River pales in comparison to the Pilgrims' arrival at Plymouth Rock, though fans of the buckled shoe will have to wait until 2020 to mark Plymouth's fourth century.

New Englanders easily tick off why the Massachusetts settlement trumps Jamestown —- the Thanksgiving feast, the Pilgrims' pure pursuit of religious freedom, and the Mayflower.

Jamestown, on the other hand, "is the creation story from hell," writes historian Karen Ordahl Kupperman in a new book on the settlement, The Jamestown Project. Conflict, disease, horrific killings and starvation —- including a man dining on his pregnant wife —- are all part of the back story of Jamestown, founded in 1607 as a business venture.

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