MANTEO - Amateur historian Scott Dawson thinks he has found what archaeologists and historians have sought for decades -- the site of an English fort on Roanoke Island linked to the legendary Lost Colony.
Dawson, a Civil War buff, said that documents written centuries apart led him to an overgrown tract where he believes explorer Ralph Lane established a settlement in 1585.
The site, on the northern end of the island about 200 miles east of Raleigh, is on National Park Service property but not within the Fort Raleigh Historic Site or the area targeted by dozens of searches.
He said he could not conclusively say that the findings, which he made public last month, confirm the site as Fort Raleigh, but he said clues from historical documents are credible.
"It's not like I was duck hunting and found it," he said. "The primary sources led me to that site."
Some archeologists and historians are skeptical about the discovery, saying it more likely contains Civil War remains.
Either way, it's significant.
"There's no question it's big news," park service historian Doug Stover said.
Dawson agrees that Confederate and Union troops left their marks on the site, but he contends that came later and on top of the 1585 remains. The 1585 fort, which was abandoned a year later, is not as popularly known as another ill-fated group that arrived in the same location in 1587 and became known as "The Lost Colony" after disappearing. Historians say the so-called first colony was important because it contributed to the success of Jamestown, established to the north in 1607.
Nicholas Luccketti, an archaeologist with the James River Institute for Archaeology in Williamsburg, Va., is one of the skeptics. He thinks the area Dawson has pinpointed was the site of a Civil War encampment and that freed slaves also lived there. He said earthworks built in the 16th century would likely have been leveled or eroded away.
"I would be pleasantly surprised and shocked if it has anything to do with the 16th century settlements," he said.
Still, the park service has placed security monitors around the site to deter intruders and is planning additional research in the next few weeks.''
Read the rest here.
It will be interesting to see if anything further develops from this; so often, intriguing stories like this one appear, and promise further details to be revealed, but then nothing more is heard, at least not in the media.
I blogged about the Lost Colony a while back; it's a story that interests me. Many of my ancestors were Jamestown colonists, and some of them might have been kin to the Roanoke colonists. I am just fascinated with that era, that time and place, and the mystery of what happened to the so-called Lost Colonists does tend to pique our interest.
As I mentioned before, there are a number of speculative theories as to what happened to the colonists.
John White and the others were sure the colonists were there. They had seen smoke from the area they expected the colonists to be the day before, but since it was late in the day, the small fleet of three ships had decided to wait until the next day before landing. The next morning the ships fired their cannon to signal to the colonists that, after three years, relief had finally arrived. But there was no answer, no sign of life from Roanoke Island.
White, who was the governor of the colony, went ashore, hoping to find 113 people, among them his daughter Eleanor; her husband, Ananias Dare; and their child, White's granddaughter, Virginia. The whole world knows what he found instead. There was no happy reunion, no colonists, just three letters, C-R-O, carved on a tree and a bit further on, carved on another tree, the word, "Croatoan". '
Most of the theories center around a possible encounter of the colonists with local Indians, who may either have spirited them away, or taken them captive, or simply slaughtered them. The first theory, that they simply left with some local Indian tribe or group and became absorbed into the tribe, seems to be the most commonly accepted theory.
Some people are exploring the possibility that the modern-day Lumbee Indians may be descendants of the colonists, who intermarried with their Indian ancestors. I have known some Lumbee Indians who indeed claim to be descendants of those colonists, and it may be true. I have wondered why there has been no testing of that claim using modern-day genetics testing, and apparently, there has been an effort to do just that.
In January of 2002, I coordinated a Payne family DNA project in an effort to determine if there was any
genetic evidence to support my research indicating that some of our 17th century Payne families, which
came to America at that early date, had been related.The project met with a great deal of success
[http://home.earthlink.net/~ppayne1203]. During the process, however, it occurred to me that we also had the opportunity to perhaps solve some of the questionssurrounding the Lost Colony, as one of the colonists in 1587 had been a Henry Payne. There are claims among Native American Tribes that they are descendants of the 1587 colonists- particularly of Henry Payne among the Lumbee. Researchers and historians have also suggested other Tribes. Because of this, it was myhope to locate a Lumbee to include in our Payne familyDNA testing.
The idea behind including a Native American in our DNA testing is that all males (regardless of race) inherit the Y-chromosome of their fathers, and they from their fathers, and so on. The Y-chromosome remains virtually unchanged as it is passed on from father-to-son in successive generations. Therefore, if a Native American could be identified to have a Y-chromosome that matches the Y-chromosome of a participant of European descent, we could conclude that, at least in this case, some Native American's [sic] do indeed descendfrom the Roanoke colonists. It is a bit more complicated than this, but this will do for an introduction. If you would like more details, visit the web site above or
From what I have been able to determine, there has been no conclusive result of the testing that has been done; it would seem to me that it would be difficult, because there has been considerable admixture of the Lumbee with white Americans for several centuries now. I would bet that there are no full-blood Lumbees left; most have some degree of European, probably mostly English, blood.
So it may be the Lumbee connection cannot be proven, just as another theory, the idea that the colonists were among the ancestors of a group called the Melungeons may be impossible to prove definitively. The Melungeons are something of an interesting story in themselves, their origins being a puzzle.
America has a number of such mysteries. Maybe the unknown factor is what makes these stories so compelling for some of us. Mysteries are often best pondered, rather than resolved. The unknownness, the open-ended nature of a mystery is fascinating to me, at least.
But I am still haunted by the possibility that a few centuries hence, whoever inhabits this country, if they still have history and a written language, will wonder whatever became of the Lost Colony of the Americans. We may be a mystery of the future, if we continue to fade away into the sunset. We may be absorbed, like those ghostly Lost Colonists of Roanoke, into a people who won't know us, our culture, or our language.
If we're somewhat lucky, we may be the subject of study by anthropologists of the future, if civilization still exists.
But if we're very lucky, our descendants will still speak English, and still be recognizably American.
I like to believe, in spite of all the signs to the contrary, that our 'colony' of 400 years will survive.