June 17, 2005

Archaeologists Extract DNA From Skeleton

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Archaeologists have successfully extracted DNA from skeleton remains under an English church that could prove a skeleton found near Jamestown belongs to one of its founders, the Church of England announced Thursday.

British and American researchers began work Monday to remove a small part of Elizabeth Gosnold Tilney's skeleton from beneath the floor of All Saints Church in the English village of Shelley, 60 miles northeast of London. She is the sister of Capt. Batholomew Gosnold, who oversaw the expedition that led to the 1607 founding of Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement.

Scientists working with skeletal remains can only trace DNA through maternal relatives. An attempt to locate the remains of Gosnold's niece, Katherine Blackerby, were unsuccessful.

Other evidence already suggests that a nearly intact skeleton found outside the site of the Jamestown Fort is Gosnold's, but a DNA match would be confirmation.

Tilney's sample will be analyzed at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., and compared to a sample taken from the skeleton believed to be Gosnold's, the church said.

Special permission for the excavations was required from the Church of England.

The National Geographic Society is providing funding for the dig. The results of the DNA comparison will be revealed on the National Geographic Channel's series "Explorer" later this year.