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Jamestown DNA project OK'd by Church of England

Archeologist William M. Kelso stands over the remains believed to be of Capt. Bartholomew Gosnold in Jamestown, Va., earlier this month.Alexa Welch Edlund / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The Church of England on Wednesday gave permission for archeologists to dig under a church and remove DNA from a 400-year-old body to determine if the Jamestown settlement's founder was buried under the 17th century fort.

The Church of England said archaeologists can dig under the floor of a church in Suffolk, England, to reach the skeleton of Elizabeth Tilney. She was the sister of Bartholomew Gosnold, a leader of the English expedition that founded Jamestown in 1607.

To tell if a skeleton recovered from the site of the original Jamestown fort is Gosnold's, scientists need DNA from a female relative.

This is the first time the church has agreed to let DNA be taken from a grave for a scientific project, said a statement from the Diocese of St. Edmundsbury and Ipswich.

The statement said the request was granted "because the reason and methodology of the project was well thought through."

The excavation is set to take place at the Shelley All Saints Church in June.