The human history of Jamestown Island begins much earlier than 1607. The first native inhabitants walked this site 10,000 years ago. At that time, the James River was nearly 100 feet lower, a fast moving stream at the bottom of a narrow ravine. Sea levels gradually rose, flooding the Jamestown site and creating a brackish marsh. Native hunting and fishing parties from nearby towns visited the island. Fire-cracked rock, native pottery sherds, oyster shell, stone tools, and projectile points found along the river's edge suggest this was a campsite during the Late Woodland period, 1,000-400 years ago.
Although Jamestown Island appeared to be uninhabited when the colonists arrived, the island lay within the territory of the Paspahegh tribe, part of the Powhatan Paramount Chiefdom. In 1610, Jamestown colonists attacked and destroyed the principal community of the Paspahegh located six miles up river. Surviving Paspahegh left their homes to live elsewhere, possibly with other tribes.