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Preservation Virginia’s Director of Archaeology to become Honorary Commander

March 13, 2012

William Kelso, director of archaeology at Historic Jamestowne, will receive one of Britain’s highest honors when he becomes Honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). The CBE is awarded for especially inventive and celebrated contributions in the recipient’s specific area of achievement. The honor will be bestowed at a ceremony at the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., at a date to be determined.

Under Kelso’s leadership, archaeologists at Historic Jamestowne have discovered more than 1.4 million artifacts on Jamestown Island including the location of the original 1607 James Fort. Originally thought to have been lost to the tides of the James River, the site includes not only the original fort but also extensive buildings and the later statehouse. Current excavations have revealed the location of a church dating to 1608, providing historians with insights into the importance and prominence of religion in the settlement. The 1608 church is most notably known as the wedding site of Chief Powhatan’s daughter, Pocahontas, and gentleman and tobacco farmer John Rolfe.

Additionally, the archaeology site also extends into the 19th century when a Confederate fort was constructed during the Civil War, further securing its place in the evolving American story.

“Archaeological research is often critical to our examination of history and our understanding of the establishment of American institutions,” said Kelso. “I am humbled to receive this prestigious recognition for my lifelong passion for British-American Colonial archaeology and for leading teams of talented scholars to reveal its many significant stories.”

“Since 1893, Preservation Virginia has served as steward of 22 acres at Jamestown,” said Elizabeth Kostelney, executive director of Preservation Virginia. “Only when Bill became the association’s director of archaeology was a thorough investigation considered. His remarkable skill, knowledge and approachable manner have given us all the opportunity to stand at the exact place where the great American experiment in democracy, government and culture was launched. Preservation Virginia congratulates Bill on this high honor recognizing his achievements and contributions.”

In addition to archaeological research, Kelso oversees program interpretation at Historic Jamestowne. He also works in conjunction with The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation to seek recognition for the Historic Triangle—Historic Jamestowne, Williamsburg and Yorktown—as a World Heritage Site. A historically significant location both nationally and globally, this project emphasizes the importance of the establishment of English society in America, including contact with Indian peoples and the arrival of the first Africans. In 1619 at Jamestown’s General Assembly, the first meeting of an elected representative government took place in the Western hemisphere. The Historic Triangle also witnessed the first articulation of a Declaration of Rights in 1776 in Williamsburg, which served as the capital of the largest colony and original state, where principles of religious freedom originated; and in Yorktown, which witnessed the winning of the American Revolution, securing the new nation. Most importantly, it is the home of democratic ideas and institutions in early America that evolved into the elective governments seen today in the United States and other countries around the world.

“Bill’s commitment to archaeology not only provides significant context for guests to Historic Jamestowne and the Historic Triangle more broadly, but also provides insights into the development of American government, democracy and citizenship, and how each was influenced by early life in the area,” said Colin Campbell, president of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. “We are immensely proud of his accomplishments in the field and for the recognition he has received for his efforts.”

Kelso, one of the most prominent archaeologists specializing in early American history, joined the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (now known as Preservation Virginia) and the Jamestown Rediscovery project in 1993 to lead the ongoing archaeological search for James Fort. Prior to his work for Historic Jamestowne, he served as a director of field archaeology for Colonial Williamsburg, Monticello and Poplar Forest. He was also commissioner of archaeology for the Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission. Kelso received a bachelor’s degree in history from Baldwin-Wallace College, a master’s degree in history from the College of William & Mary, and a doctorate from Emory University.

Historic Jamestowne is jointly administered by the National Park Service and The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation (on behalf of Preservation Virginia) and preserves the original site of the first permanent English settlement in the New World. Visitors to Historic Jamestowne share the moment of discovery with archaeologists and witness archaeology in action at the 1607 James Fort excavation April-October; learn about the Jamestown Rediscovery excavation at the Nathalie P. and Alan M. Voorhees Archaearium, the site's archaeology museum; tour the original 17th-century church tower and reconstructed 17th-century Jamestown Memorial Church; and take a walking tour with a Park Ranger through the New Towne area along the scenic James River.

Preservation Virginia, a private non-profit organization and statewide historic preservation leader founded in 1889, is dedicated to perpetuating and revitalizing Virginia's cultural, architectural and historic heritage thereby ensuring that historic places are integral parts of the lives of present and future generations.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is an interactive not-for-profit educational institution and cultural destination dedicated to the preservation, restoration, interpretation, and presentation of the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia. This town-sized living history museum tells the inspirational stories of our journey to become Americans through programs in the Historic Area and through the award-winning Revolutionary City program. Colonial Williamsburg is committed to expanding its thought-provoking programming through education outreach on-site and online. Purchase of Colonial Williamsburg products and services supports the preservation, research and educational programs of the Foundation. Philanthropic support by individuals, corporations, and foundations benefits the educational mission of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s website at

Press Contact

Elizabeth Kostelny
Executive Director
Preservation Virginia
204 West Franklin Street
Richmond, Virginia 23220
804-648-1889, x306