HILL, N.C. (AP)—A new look at a 425-year-old map has yielded a
tantalizing clue about the fate of the Lost Colony, the settlers who
disappeared from North Carolina’s Roanoke Island in the late 16th
from the First Colony Foundation and the British Museum in London
discussed their findings Thursday at a scholarly meeting on the campus
of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Their focus: the
“Virginea Pars” map of Virginia and North Carolina created by explorer
John White in the 1580s and owned by the British Museum since 1866.
believe that this evidence provides conclusive proof that they moved
westward up the Albemarle Sound to the confluence of the Chowan and
Roanoke rivers,” said James Horn, vice president of research and
historical interpretation at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and
author of a 2010 book about the Lost Colony.
intention was to create a settlement. And this is what we believe we
are looking at with this symbol—their clear intention, marked on the
to the map are two patches. One patch appears to merely correct a
mistake on the map, but the other—in what is modern-day Bertie County in
northeastern North Carolina—hides what appears to be a fort. Another
symbol, appearing to be the very faint image of a different kind of
fort, is drawn on top of the patch.
American and British scholars believe the fort symbol could indicate
where the settlers went. The British researchers joined the Thursday
meeting via webcast.
a joint announcement, the museums said, “First Colony Foundation
researchers believe that it could mark, literally and symbolically, ‘the
way to Jamestown.’ As such, it is a unique discovery of the first
made the map and other drawings when he traveled to Roanoke Island in
1585 on an expedition commanded by Sir Ralph Lane. In 1587, a second
colony of 116 English settlers landed on Roanoke Island, led by White.
He left the island for England for more supplies but couldn’t return
again until 1590 because of the war between England and Spain.
he came back, the colony was gone. White knew the majority had planned
to move “50 miles into the maine,” as he wrote, referring to the
mainland. The only clue he found about the fate of the other two dozen
was the word “CROATOAN” carved into a post, leading historians to
believe they moved south to live with American Indians on what’s now
the discovery of the fort symbol offers the first new clue in centuries
about what happened to the 95 or so settlers, experts said Thursday.
And researchers at the British Museum discovered it because Brent Lane, a
member of the board of the First Colony Foundation, asked a seemingly
obvious question: What’s under those two patches?
say the patches attached to White’s excruciatingly accurate map were
made with ink and paper contemporaneous with the rest of the map. One
corrected mistakes on the shoreline of the Pamlico River and the placing
of some villages. But the other covered the possible fort symbol, which
is visible only when the map is viewed in a light box.
map was critical to Sir Walter Raleigh’s quest to attract investors in
his second colony, Lane said. It was critical to his convincing Queen
Elizabeth I to let him keep his charter to establish a colony in the New
World. It was critical to the colonists who navigated small boats in
that made Lane wonder: “If this was such an accurate map and it was so
critical to their mission, why in the world did it have patches on it?
This important document was being shown to investors and royalty to
document the success of this mission. And it had patches on it like a
don’t know why someone covered the symbol with a patch, although Horn
said the two drawings could indicate the settlers planned to build more
of a settlement than just a fort.
land where archaeologists would need to dig eventually is privately
owned, and some of it could be under a golf course and residential
community. So excavating won’t begin anytime soon. But it doesn’t have
to, said Nicholas Luccketti, a professional archaeologist in Virginia
and North Carolina for more than 35 years.
must first re-examine ceramics, including some recovered from an area
in Bertie County called Salmon Creek, he said.
clue is certainly the most significant in pointing where a search
should continue,” Lane said. “The search for the colonists didn’t start
this decade; it didn’t start this century. It started as soon as they
were found to be absent from Roanoke Island … I would say every
generation in the last 400 years has taken this search on.”
But none have had today’s sophisticated technology to help, he said.
“None of them had this clue on this map.”
Source: The Associated Press