This past August there was considerable excitement in the archaeology community when it was announced that researchers may have finally uncovered a clue about the fate of the Lost Colony in North Carolina. The Lost Colony refers to a group of more than 100 colonists that settled on Roanoke Island in 1587, only to have disappeared with no trace sometime before the return of a resupply ship three years later. What happened to them is a question of ongoing research by archaeologists.
The latest announcement detailed work by archaeologist Nicholas M. Luccketti and his team from the First Colony Foundation who have uncovered numerous early colonial artifacts on a hillside that is 60 miles west of Roanoke Island. Finds include pieces of gun flintlocks, a ceramic known as Border ware, a buckle, and other items that indicate a small colonial presence that could have a connection to colonists from the Lost Colony. This is supported by a historic map that shows an “x,” possibly indicative of a fort in the area. For some reason this section of the map was covered with a patch and only recently have new imagery techniques revealed the “x.”
The location of this site along the Albemarle Sound immediately brought to mind the Archaeological Conservancy’s Scotch Hall Archaeological Preserve which is also situated on the Albemarle Sound, quite close to the possible Lost Colony site.
The Scotch Hall Preserve was acquired by the Conservancy in 2013. It contains the remains of a prehistoric settlement that dates to the Early and Middle Woodland periods (between 3000-1000 years ago). Archaeological testing of the site has revealed what is thought to be a large midden or trash pit, which contains thousands of pottery sherds in addition to tools made out of bone, antler, and stone. The artifact assemblage also revealed information about the diet of the site’s inhabitants, which included deer, oyster, turtle, and nuts.
While the site had been known for at least 30 years, no investigations had been conducted until a survey was undertaken in 2012 in advance of a large housing development. When testing demonstrated the significance of the site, state archaeologists, the research firm in charge of the testing, and the developer worked together with the Conservancy to donate the property and ensure its permanent protection.
While the Scotch Hall site was occupied earlier than the Lost Colony site, the resource-rich environment of the area would have equally supported later desendant Native American occupations. The Albemarle Sound provided many Native Americans groups and then later European colonists with a diverse cornucopia of wild plant foods, shellfish, and fish, and the fertile land surrounding the Sound could have been farmed, as much of it is today. We eagerly await additional news about the ongoing investigations from the First Colony Foundation’s researchers!
Update from our Eastern Regional Office: Kelley Berliner, East Field Representative
Read more about the announcements in August 2015:
NYT: The Roanoke Island Colony: Lost, and Found?
CSM: Archeologists may have solved mystery of the ‘Lost Colony’
National Geographic: We Finally Have Clues to How America’s Lost Colony Vanished
Explore Fort Raleigh National Historic Site– protects and preserves known portions of England’s first New World settlements from 1584 to 1590. Learn NPS history of the historic Search for the Lost Colony
Considering a trip to the area? Start planning here