Monday, August 26, 2013

Flying a Piece of America


Bucket List item! Just this past July, I wrote an article about the Amazing Objects That Have Sailed To Space, and while in Virginia this past week, I got to visit the rarest and oldest!

Yames Towne Cargo Tag

BEHOLD: The "Yames Town" metal cargo tag from America's very first 17th Century settlement in the New World, which flew on Space Shuttle Atlantis!

NASA Shuttle mission STS-117 carried the small lead piece from "Yames Towne", a 400-year-old artifact excavated by archaeologists in what we now call "Jamestown", Virginia, 2006. This particular item made a trip across the Atlantic Ocean around 1611, along with European passengers destined for Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the Americas.

Jamestown Virginia Archaeological Site

Archaeologists at the present-day site of the original James Fort the coast of the James River (are you seeing a pattern, here?) who are still actively digging to find many more relics, say this archaic equivalent of a modern-day luggage tag very likely attached to a wooden barrel or box to identify cargo destination.

Gun powder previously warehoused in London? Someone's personal trunk? Foodstuffs or supplies for the colony? We may never know.  The spelling with the "Y" seems strange to modern eyes, but may indicate Dutch origin, as this language typically represented "J" with "Y" during this historical era.

Yames Towne Cargo Tag

In honor of the 400th anniversary of the founding of this first colony of the New World, the metal plate was packed aboard Atlantis in 2007, and took 219 orbits around the Earth – this time crossing many oceans in a fraction of the time!  It's quite breath-taking to think of how far our technology has come in such a short time -- but certainly the craftsman who created this item could never have forseen its eventual journey, centuries later.

The tag is now in the Archaearium, the historic Jamestown museum in Virginia, along with a Space Shuttle plaque showing the ISS, the mission patch, the crew of STS-117 and a certificate returning the tag to the new Colonial National Historical Park.  The site of the first ship's landing is only yards away.

Space Shuttle Atlantis

For originals of the Jamestown colony visit, or the previous days at NASA Langley, see my Pillownaut Picasa gallery of my trip to Virginia!