Jamestown settlers mystery solved?

Archaeologists have discovered the graves of four founders of Jamestown, Va. The historic figures were buried in the long-vanished church built inside James Fort in 1608. (Jason Aldag/The Washington Post)

JAMESTOWN, Va. — When his friends buried Capt. Gabriel Archer here about 1609, they dug his grave inside a church, lowered his coffin into the ground and placed a sealed silver box on the lid.

This English outpost was then a desperate place. The “starving time,” they called it. Scores had died of hunger and disease. Survivors were walking skeletons, besieged by Indians, and reduced to eating snakes, dogs and one another.

The tiny, hexagonal box, etched with the letter “M,” contained seven bone fragments and a small lead vial, and probably was an object of veneration, cherished as disaster closed in on the colony.