Digging for John Paul Jones

Dig could shed light on US navy founder

A dig for 260-year-old household rubbish could shed light on the early years of the Scot regarded as the founder of the United States navy.

American archaeologists investigating the cottage where John Paul Jones was born in 1747 believe that “trash” may provide clues to the life his family lived in Scotland. The team has begun work at his tiny former home, a gardener’s cottage on Arbigland estate near Dumfries, close to the sea and the Solway Firth.Dr Julie Schablinsky, one of the leaders of the dig, funded by the First Landing Foundation project in Virginia City, said there was a “lot of potential” in the excavation.She added:“Although the cottage has been modified over time and there has been some utility work there are a lot of areas that could still hold intact deposits from the time period of John Paul Jones.“We would expect to find in both the back yard and the side yard places where they threw away their trash which is really what archaeologists try to find to reconstruct how people lived hundreds and hundreds of years ago.

“I think any sort of find that would include a feature like a concentration of artefacts or even old outbuildings would really add to our knowledge about how John Paul lived.”

Jones, who was born in poverty, was fascinated by the sea, and made his first voyage to America as a ship’s apprentice, aged 13.He took his first command at 21 and at 29 he joined the fledgling American, or Continental, Navy. He was the first man to hoist America’s new national flag, raising it over his ship The Alfred in 1775.In 1779 he fought his most famous battle against the British when at the helm of the Bonhomme Richard he engaged the frigate Serapis off Flamborough Head, on Yorkshire’s coast.Apparently in danger of losing the battle, Jones and his men boarded the British frigate and captured it.He died in France in 1792, but in 1905 the US brought his remains back for burial in a marble sarcophagus in the chapel crypt of the Annapolis Naval Academy.

September 2007 Archaeological Excavations at the Cottage

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