Artifacts possibly from lost colony found in Bertie County


ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (AP) — Archaeologists have discovered evidence suggesting that a part of the lost colony may have ended up in Bertie County.

The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk reports (http://bit.ly/29KgJAm) archaeologists have excavated 850 square feet of a tract in question and found dozens of artifacts. The findings include bale seals used to verify cloth quality, 16th-century nails and pieces of pottery jars for storing dried and salted fish.

Clay Swindell, archaeologist and collections specialist at the Museum of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City, says while the findings do not prove lost colony residents lived there, they certainly show they could have.

Swindell said the rural site south of the Chowan River bridge has been inhabited for centuries first by native Americans, then early English settlers. It later became the site of a governor’s plantation.

A series of events led to the discovery of Site X. In 2007, a developer planned to build a large subdivision there. As usual, the state first required a search for historically significant sites or artifacts. A team found early English pottery and signs of a Native American village. Meanwhile, the development never panned out.

In 2012, researchers looking at a map that John White drew of eastern North Carolina in the 1580s found a patch covering what looked like a fort. The map is still preserved at the British Museum in London.

The fort symbol sat at the western end of the Albemarle Sound in what is now Bertie County, matching where the English artifacts were found.

“We put two and two together,” Swindell said.

Before he left for England in 1587, John White told the colony to “remove 50 miles into the main.” That clue did not help archaeologists much at first, since a 50-mile radius from Roanoke Island covers most of northeastern North Carolina.

“No one had a good understanding where the 50 miles might be,” Swindell said.

The Bertie site lies 49.32 nautical miles from Roanoke Island, according to Google Earth.

John White was part of all three Walter Raleigh expeditions from England to the North Carolina coast. In 1585 and 1586, he made the map preserved at the British Museum. In 1587, he returned to Roanoke Island with a group that included his daughter, Eleanor Dare, and son-in-law, Ananias Dare. Eleanor gave birth on Aug. 18 to Virginia, the first English baby born in the New World. He left the colony shortly afterward to resupply.

By the time White returned three years later, the colony was gone. He found the word “Croatoan” carved in a post and CRO carved into a tree. The Croatoan tribe lived around Buxton. White went there but could not find signs of the English.

Years later, Jamestown leaders sent a party south to search for the colonists, but bad relations with Native Americans hindered the effort. The party never made it to the Bertie site, Swindell said.

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Information from: The Virginian-Pilot, http://pilotonline.com

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