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Is the Jamestown tablet an American Rosetta Stone?

An expert in Elizabethan script is studying the mysterious etching on the Jamestown tablet.

Digitally enhanced images of the slate are helping to isolate inscriptions and illuminate fine details on the slate—the first with extensive inscriptions discovered at any early American colonial site, said William Kelso, director of research and interpretation at the 17th-century Historic Jamestowne site.

The enhancements have helped researchers identify a 16th-century writing style used on the slate and discern new symbols, researchers announced last week. The characters may be from an obscure Algonquian Indian alphabet created by an English scientist to help explorers pronounce the language spoken by the Virginia Indians.

“Just like finding the Rosetta Stone led to a better understanding of the Egyptians, this tablet is beginning to add significantly to our understanding of the earliest years at Jamestown,” Kelso said. It conveys messages about literacy, art, symbols and signs personally communicated by the colonists who used it, he explained.

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