HYANNIS, Mass. – Bartholomew Gosnold was New England’s Columbus.
The former privateer explored the coasts of Maine and Massachusetts in 1602, naming Cape Cod and, historians believe, the island of Martha’s Vineyard. He was also a founder of the Jamestown colony in Virginia, where he died in 1607.
Now, archaeologists are trying to match DNA from a skeleton discovered there that is believed to be Gosnold’s with that of his known relatives in England.
Scientists said Monday that the Church of England has agreed to allow them to use radar to look beneath two churches for clues that could confirm whether the remains discovered two years ago at Jamestown belonged to Gosnold.
They are looking for the graves of the explorer’s sister, Elizabeth Gosnold Tilney, and his niece, Katherine Blackerby, who were buried beneath two different churches in Gosnold’s native Suffolk, England.
“We need to find the exact location of the women,” Nick Clarke, a spokesman for the Church of England, told The Cape Cod Times. “We don’t want to be rummaging around. This isn’t a fishing expedition.”
If they find the remains, the researchers hope to use bits of teeth or bone to verify whether the women’s DNA matches that of the Jamestown skeleton.
Clarke said results of the radar testing would be known in about two weeks. If the locations are confirmed, archaeologists will ask permission to extract the DNA, hoping to begin the work in late spring or early summer.
“If we do get permission to seek DNA, we would be seeking a tooth or a piece of pelvis about the size of a thumb,” Clarke said.
The results would be revealed in a documentary produced by the National Geographic Society.