North Carolina, British researchers find clue to location of Lost Colony

Reply Fri 4 May, 2012 10:15 am
May 04, 2012
North Carolina, British researchers find clue to location of Lost Colony
By Jay Price - New Observer

CHAPEL HILL -- Scholars on both sides of the Atlantic have uncovered perhaps the strongest clue in more than 420 years to North Carolina’s biggest mystery.

Researchers at the British Museum in London, prompted by questions from an amateur historian who teaches economic development at UNC-Chapel Hill, found a symbol hidden for centuries under a patch on an Elizabethan map that could show where the settlers of the Lost Colony went after they vanished in 1587.

The missing colonists, it turns out, may have moved to what is now an Arnold Palmer-designed golf course in Bertie County.

The discovery was announced Thursday at UNC’s Wilson Library by a panel from a Durham-based group of historians and archaeologists named the First Colony Foundation and two scholars at the British Museum, who appeared via video webcast.

The elaborate “Virginea Pars” map was created by John White, the leader of an expedition sent by Sir Walter Raleigh to establish the first permanent English colony in the New World.

White returned to England in 1587 for supplies, leaving about 115 colonists behind on Roanoke Island, site of present-day Manteo.

Because of a war with Spain, he was unable to return for three years. When he finally did, there was no one left, though the word “Croatoan” had been carved into a post at the abandoned fort, and “Cro” was slashed onto a nearby tree, prompting centuries of speculation that the colonists had decamped for Hatteras Island, then known as Croatoan.

The fate of the colony spurred several expeditions to find them, centuries of study and searching by scholars and archaeologists, and the outdoor drama “The Lost Colony.”

It also sparked the creation in 2004 of the First Colony Foundation, which is dedicated to using archaeology and historical scholarship to study and explain Sir Walter Raleigh’s various colonial expeditions from 1584 to 1590. The group includes many professional historians and archaeologists, but it was a gifted amateur who asked the simple questions that spurred the new discovery.

Analyzing the map

Last year Brent Lane, an adjunct professor of Heritage Economics at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and a member of the foundation, was studying the map as part of the group’s efforts to better understand the Native American villages of the time. He became intrigued, though, by two small patches of paper pasted over parts of the map.

The patching technique was normal for the time. When artists wanted to make alterations, they’d paste on a patch and draw or paint over it. Still, Lane couldn’t help but wonder.

He was looking at the elaborate map through the eyes of an entrepreneur, which is what Raleigh and White were. It was a carefully-crafted document that was crucial to them for explaining to potential investors what they were trying to do. It was so precise, so well-made, Lane thought, that the patches seemed out of place.

So he asked British Museum officials whether they had ever tried to determine what was under the patches.

They hadn’t.

When they put the map on a simple light table, which shone through the paper, they saw something startling. Under one patch was a large, square symbol with oddly-shaped corners.

Panelist Eric Klingelhofer, a history professor at Mercer University in Macon, Ga., who edited a book on the archaeology of such fortifications, said the shape was clearly similar to several depictions of forts from that era, including examples in Ireland, Puerto Rico, Jamestown, Va., and the same colonists’ Fort Raleigh on Roanoke Island.

A small adjacent circle matches circles elsewhere on the map that depict the sights of Native American villages.

Analysis showed that the pigments used for the symbol seemed to match those used in the rest of the map, and the material used for the patch also matched the paper used.

Then, though, the most intriguing clue since John White found the “Croatoan” carving got even more interesting. Further analysis, using ultraviolet light, showed markings on top of the patch. They appear to depict the fort with other markings outside its walls that could be expanded plans for a town or even a city.

The museum’s experts couldn’t determine what had been used to make the faint marks. For lack of a better explanation, Lane said, they theorize that the marks may have been made in an invisible ink based on an organic material, such as lemon juice or urine.

It’s possible, he said, that Raleigh wanted to hide the location in case the map was seen by Spanish spies operating in the court of Queen Elizabeth, which could lead to a Spanish attack to uproot the English foothold.

The scholars said Thursday that the fort symbol is too large to be in scale, and so the location isn’t precise. But it appears to be in the area around Salmon Creek in the Merry Hill community, much of which is now taken up by Scotch Hall Preserve, a golf course and residential community just across the Albemarle Sound from Edenton.

Sir Walter Raleigh planned a capital, the “Cittie of Raleigh,” and Lane said that the symbol could show both the planned location of that and the most likely place for the colonists to have moved.

Or it could simply show that Raleigh planned a settlement there, then changed his mind.

“Basically, it could have been a real estate development gone bad,” he said.

It was a likely place for the English to plan a settlement, because they had shown great interest in the rivers that meet there. The Chowan was something of a pathway to the Chesapeake Bay area to the north, and the Roanoke was believed to lead to mountains where precious metals might be found, said another panelist, James Horn, author of a history of the colony and vice president of research and historical interpretation at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

And as a destination, it’s supported by one of the other great clues, said Horn: a statement written by White that when he left the colonists they were planning to move to a site 50 miles inland.

‘A clear intention’

There also is evidence that after the main body of settlers left Roanoke Island, a small group was left behind to wait for White and then moved to Hatteras, hence the carved letters that White found, he said.

The fort symbol “was a clear intention, marked on a map,” that the settlers’ plan was to move to Bertie, he said. But that raises yet another question: Did they?.

That, Horn said, would require archaeological evidence.

Another panelist, archaeologist Nick Luccketti, said a number of sites of archaeological interest had been investigated in that part of Bertie County decades ago, and that the First Colony had already begun comparing ceramics found there with those from known English sites of the same era, including Fort Raleigh.

Artifacts from one of the earlier Bertie digs had matched up. The site involved seemed too small to be a fort or settlement, but the results were still encouraging, given that the work of exploring the ramifications of the new clue has just begun, Luccketti said.

The next step, he said, will be to analyze the general area to help determine where to focus preliminary archaeological testing.

Word of the discovery is just starting to seep out in Bertie, and Lane said that when foundation members broke the news to the landowners, they were both excited and cautious about what it could mean.

One possibility: The answer to another of North Carolina’s enduring mysteries: How to boost the economy in Bertie County, which is among the state’s prettiest places, but also among its poorest.

The coastal housing bust stopped or slowed construction and sales at several major projects that could have brought more money into the county, including Scotch Hall Preserve, where only a handful of houses have been built so far.

It was no accident that Steve Biggs, the director of the county’s economic development commission, drove all the way to Chapel Hill on Thursday for the news conference.

“It will be up to the landowners, of course, but we’re certainly hoping that this could bring in some tourism dollars,” he said. “That is, if in fact the Lost Colony is found in Bertie County.”

Detail of “La Virginea Pars” by John White showing the area of one of two paper patches (the northern patch) stuck to the map (P&D 1906,0509.1.3 (detail).


Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/05/01/2041723/north-carolina-and-british-researchers.html#storylink=cpy
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Reply Fri 4 May, 2012 11:36 am
I have been fascinated by this historical mystery since grammar school. Thanks for the information, BBB.
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Reply Fri 4 May, 2012 11:50 am
John White returns to the colony and finds "Croatoan" carved on the side of the abandoned fort.

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Reply Fri 4 May, 2012 12:33 pm
John White's map.

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Lustig Andrei
Reply Fri 4 May, 2012 02:03 pm
Fascinating stuff. I wonder if any archeological work is now being planned?
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Reply Fri 4 May, 2012 03:57 pm
Among the colonists left behind by John White when he went to England for supplies, were his own daughter and granddaughter. When he saw Croatoan carved into the wall of the abandoned fort, he took that as a hopeful sign that the colonists left for Croatoan. He directed his ship's captain to travel to where he believed Croatoan was. They encountered bad weather and were almost shipwrecked. Their ship had to go into deeper water and simply returned to England. White never saw his daughter and granddaughter again.

John White himself wrote this account of his attempt to find the lost colonists:
When we had seen in this place so much as we could, we returned to our boats, and departed from the shore towards our ships, with as much
speed as we could: For the weather began to overcast, and very likely that a foul and stormy night would ensue. Therefore the same evening with much danger and labor, we got ourselves aboard, by which time the wind and seas were so greatly risen, that we doubted our cables and anchors would scarcely hold until morning: wherefore the captain caused the boat to be manned with five lusty men, who could swim all well, and sent them to the little island on the right hand of the harbor, to bring aboard six of our men, who had filled our cask with fresh water: the boat the same night returned aboard with our men, but all our cask ready filled they left behind, impossible to be had aboard without danger of casting away both men and boats: for this night proved very stormy and foul.
The next morning it was agreed by the captain and myself, with the master and others, to weigh anchor, and go for the place at Croatoan, where our planters were: for that then the wind was good for that place, and also to leave that cask with fresh water on shore in the island until our return. So then they brought the cable to the capston, but when the anchor was almost aboard, the cable broke, by means whereof we lost another anchor, wherewith we drove so fast into the shore, that we were forced to let fall a third anchor: which came so fast home that the ship was almost aground by Kenrick’s mount: so that we were forced to let slip the cable end for end. And if it had not chanced that we had fallen into a channel of deeper water, closer by the shore then we accounted for, we could never have gone clear of the point that lies to the southward of Kenrick’s mount. Being thus clear of some dangers, and gotten into deeper waters, but not without some loss: for we had but one cable and anchor left us of four, and the weather grew to be fouler and fouler; our victuals scarce, and our cask and fresh water lost: it was therefore determined that we should go for Saint John or some other island to the southward for fresh water. . . .
The 2. of October in the Morning we saw S. Michael’s Island on our starboard quarter.
The 23. at 10. of the clock before noon, we saw Ushant in Brittany.
On Saturday the 24. we came in safety, God be thanked, to an anchor in Plymouth [England].
Reply Fri 4 May, 2012 04:26 pm
Im sure theyre going to be scouring old aerial photos in the gold course and surrounding areas. Inetesting how noone ever thought of seeing what was under the patches using a light table. Seems almost a no brainer.
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Reply Sat 5 May, 2012 05:56 am
Walter Raleigh was in charge of all the early attempts by England to start a permanent settlement in America. After John White returned to England without finding the lost colonists, Raleigh sent another expedition a few years later. That expedition failed to reach Roanoke island because of bad weather and also returned to England.

When John White examined the abandoned fort in 1590, he saw no signs of any violence or struggle.
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Reply Sat 5 May, 2012 08:39 am
The new information indicates that the colonists may have moved to the area between the confluence of the Chowan and Roanoke rivers.

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Reply Sat 5 May, 2012 01:07 pm
I have always been fascinated with the mysteries of history, BBB. So long ago, I was in Cape Hatteras and watched a reenactment of the colony.

I do recall that one of the rescue ships played this to alert the colonists that they were "the good guys" coming to their aid.


Don't quite understand about the findings under the golf course, however.
Reply Sun 6 May, 2012 09:11 am
Earlier theories about what happened to the colonists include:
--they built a ship and tried to return to England
--they were attacked by the Spanish who believed that this area belonged to them
--they were attacked by Native Americans
--they were killed by a hurricane that hit their island
--they went to live among friendly Native Americans and intermingled with them
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Reply Mon 7 May, 2012 02:04 pm
The actual 37 page report of the British Museum on their investigation of the patches on the map is available online:

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Reply Wed 9 May, 2012 09:10 am
Map of Lost Colony backs our historian
(By Steve Vaughan, The Virginia Gazette, May 8, 2012)

WILLIAMSBURG — Jim Horn, Colonial Williamsburg’s vice president for research, had to be thinking “I told you so” when he heard the latest discoveries out of Britain about Roanoke Island.

Reports Thursday suggested that the settlers of the Lost Colony resettled just where Horn said they did in his 2010 book “A Kingdom Strange: The Brief and Tragic History of the Lost Colony of Roanoke.”

“I couldn’t have scripted it better,” Horn said in an interview. “I was stunned when I heard the news.”

The British Museum used new viewing technology to find hidden markings on a 16th century map of the North Carolina coast. Horn considers it the most significant finding in the search for the Lost Colony “in 400 years.”

A section of the map that was covered by a patch shows a symbol indicating a large fort on the headlands to the west of Roanoke Island.

“That’s exactly where I wrote they had gone,” Horn said. The map was created by John White, the colony’s governor.

Horn based his theory on encounters that later settlers had with Native Americans who indicated they knew of a settlement of Europeans in a certain spot.

A Spanish ship noted evidence of abandoned English habitation on the Outer Banks in the spring of 1588. “I believe they left earlier than that,” Horn said. “I think they left by the fall of 1587.”

The whereabouts of the Roanoke Colony survivors, including Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the  New World, is one of the great mysteries of American history.

While Horn said the mystery isn’t totally solved, the new evidence gives important clues for future archaeologists.

Horn said another mark on the map, on top of the patch that covered the fort symbol, might be a diagram for the city of Raleigh. It was named after the colony’s financial backer Sir Walter Raleigh.
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Reply Thu 10 May, 2012 09:27 am
The 1607 settlers of Jamestown had also been directed to make an effort to find the lost colonists of Roanoke Island. In a 1906 history of North Carolina, Samuel Ashe recounted the Jamestown attempt and concluded that the lost colonists moved inland to the area now known as Bertie County:
At length the settlement was made at Jamestown in 1607, and the authorities in England gave positive directions that efforts should be made to find the Lost Colony and relieve their distresses. Expeditions were sent by land and water, but without avail. Powhatan, the Emperor of the Virginia Indians, resided at the Falls on the James River, and the Indians on the Roanoke were not under his dominion. Still he had influence with them ; and from friendly Indians it was learned that after the arrival of the colony at Jamestown, he had caused the settlers, who for more than twenty years had lived peaceably and intermixed with the Indians south of the Chowan, to be slaughtered, although some few were said to have escaped. The exploring party under Newport, in 1608, "went southward to some parts of Chowanook and the Mangoangs, to search there those left by Sir Walter Raleigh.'' Smith in his "True Relation," speaking of Paspehegh, the King of the few Indians who lived near Jamestown, says: "What he knew of the Dominions he spared to acquaint me with, as of certain men cloathed at a place called Ocanahonan, clothed like me."

And again : "He sent from Warraskoyack Master Scitlemore and two guides to seek for the Lost Colony of Sir Walter Raleigh. We had agreed with the King of Paspehegh to conduct two of our men to a place called Panawicke, beyond Roanoke, where he reported many men to be appareled. We landed him at Wlarraskoyack, where playing the villaine and deluding us for rewarde, returned within three or four days after, without going further." This was in 1608.

Alexander Brown, in his "Genesis of the United States," has reproduced a rude drawing made from Indian descriptions and sent by Thomas Nelson from Virginia in 1608 to illustrate Smith's "True Relation" in this particular matter. On this map Warraskoyack is on the Nansemond. Ocanahonan seems to be on the Nottoway. On the Tar is located "Pakrakanick," and near it on the map is a legend : "Here remayneth four men clothed that came from Roanoke to Ochanahonan." Between the Chowan and the Morratock (Roanoke River) on the map is another legend : "Here the King of Paspehegh reported our men to be, and wants to go." And that region is designated Pananiock." From this it would seem that White's Colony, after his departure, did remove into the interior, and located in either what is now Bertie County, or south of Albemarle Sound.
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