Friday, October 20, 2006

TV stuff Check out the homepage for PBS's Secrets of the Dead. Much of it isn't strictly archaeology, though even then it's interesting. I caught Death at Jamestown the other night and it was quite good. Upshot: Lots of them died while other settlements not too far away thrived. The "mystery" focusses on a guy name of Frank Hancock who proposes that they were poisoned with arsenic by rogue Catholics out to sabotage the (Protestant) English colonists. Apart from a list of symptoms derived from contemporary writings that seem to fit arsenic poisoning, it's all quite circumstantial. Unfortunately, those who don't exactly buy that theory either weren't given enough time to respond substantively or were unable to.
It was intriguing, I suppose, but what was provided in the program was too little to really judge by. How accurate are the descriptions of "symptoms"? Were all the supposed outbreaks really restricted to several days following visits by ships? And there is a great deal of other evidence that points to that particular colony being in a bad place and stocked with people more intent (and skilled at) making a profit than building a sustainable settlement. For instance, it was on an island with no fresh water other than a river, and it was during a period of extreme drought. Certainly drinking bad water swimming with numerous pathogens could bring on a host of ailments with a wide range of symptoms.

So, eh. Interesting.