Thousands of years ago, when the island was larger and drier, Jamestown was more suitable for permanent habitation. In fact, archaeologists have excavated hearths from the 2,000-year-old campsites. Nearby, they found pottery and evidence of stone tool-making. Soil core samples recovered by geologists revealed evidence of buried cornfields cultivated by American Indians long before the English arrived.
However, by 1607, the local Paspahegh hunted and fished here but did not occupy the island. When the colonists arrived, they presumed that the island was unoccupied (one of the prerequisites for the location of their settlement), not realizing the land was still in use.
...when they go Hunting into the Out-lands, they commonly go out for the whole Season, with their Wives and Family. At the Place where they find the most Game, they build up a convenient Number of small Cabbins, wherein they live during the Season.
Robert Beverley, History and Present State of Virginia, 1705
Prehistoric Indian campsite hearth, excavated during the 1994-1995 island survey