Historic Jamestowne's Kelso said the enhanced images also revealed two symbols that are similar to characters in a phonetic Algonquian alphabet invented in 1585 by Thomas Hariot.
The English scientist participated in the expedition to establish an ill-fated colony on Roanoke Island—in what is now North Carolina—for his patron, Sir Walter Raleigh, that same year.
It wasn't until after archaeologists had discovered the slate that Kelso was made aware of the 36-character alphabet by a researcher attending one of Kelso's lectures. The alphabet survives as a manuscript in the library of the Westminster School in London.
Kelso said there are also documented references to a dictionary of the Algonquian language, which some scholars think Hariot developed, since he had had the opportunity to learn the language from Native Americans who returned to England with the explorers. Fire destroyed the dictionary in 1666, and there are no surviving copies, he said.
Friday, January 15, 2010
More on the Jamestown Slate
New digital images are helping to decipher the mysterious writing on the early 17th-century slate recovered from Jamestown last summer, and they suggest that somebody was practicing the native language: