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Origins of Virginia


Chesapeake Bay
Chesapeake Bay

Archaeological evidence indicates that nomadic bands of hunters entered the northwest and center of what would become Virginia about 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. Later, attracted by the abundant fish, migratory birds, and other game of Chesapeake Bay and nearby river valleys, Native Americans created substantial communities in the eastern region that Europeans would call the Tidewater. These first inhabitants supplemented their diets by growing corn, beans, squash, and other vegetables. They also raised and smoked tobacco and developed techniques for building log canoes that whites would later copy.

On the eve of colonization, many different peoples had established a presence in Virginia. When the first English settlers arrived in Virginia in 1607, they interacted mainly with the Powhatan Confederacy, an Algonquian-speaking group occupying the coast.

Explorers and Early Settlers


The first European to see Virginia may have been John Cabot, who reached the North American coast for England in 1497 and may have explored it the next year. The Italian Giovanni da Verrazzano explored the coast for France in 1524. In 1570 the Spanish started a religious mission on the Rappahannock River near the site of Fredericksburg, but Native Americans wiped it out. In 1606 King James I of England granted to two commercial companies the right to colonize Virginia, a name the English used broadly to describe the Atlantic coast of North America. One company, the Virginia Company of London, dispatched a fleet of three ships, the Susan Constant, the Goodspeed, and the Discovery, under the command of Captain Christopher Newport.

The ships headed toward the general location of an earlier, unsuccessful “Virginia” colony, the Second Roanoke Island colony of 1587. The site of that colony is now in the state of North Carolina.

After four months at sea, the voyagers explored the coast north of the old colonial site and found the vast, attractive inlet of Chesapeake Bay. Entering the bay, they sailed up a river they named the James after the English king. In May 1607 they landed on a swampy peninsula and erected Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America. "Virginia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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