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Experience Jamestown The Starving Time

Stories of a Nation

Could you have survived?

The colonists were not prepared for that first humid summer at Jamestown. The site itself, although ideal for mooring ships, was marshland, “full of slime and filth” and a breeding ground for mosquitoes. At low tide, the water became brackish and unfit for drinking. People swelled up from salt poisoning and suffered from dysentery.

A severe drought drained the land, and what crops they hoped to harvest withered and died.

By August 1607, daily rations of food included only worm-infested wheat and a half-pint of barley boiled in water. Starvation and disease claimed the lives of 13 men.

But the worst was yet to come. . .

During the winter of 1609-10, the colonists who remained at Jamestown were reduced to eating the starch that had been used to keep their collars stiff, capturing snakes and looting what little was left in the storehouses. And most disturbing — “an untold number of the English fed on the meat of their dead fellows.” Some ran away to the natives and others dug their own graves, lay down and awaited death.

By March 1610, only 60 colonists were left alive.


Did you survive the Voyage?
Check your answers to the interactive experience here.

Could you have survived?
Learn more here

The Virginia Indians
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Resource: "Love and Hate in Jamestown" by David A. Price

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