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N.C. site could be old English settlement

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Courtney Caine
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« on: April 07, 2009, 12:56:33 am »

N.C. site could be old English settlement
By Catherine Kozak
The Virginian-Pilot
April 5, 2009
It's not quite Eleanor Dare's jewelry box, but the artifacts that archaeologists recently dug up at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site might hold some historic dazzle.

"We definitely found a historic site from the Colonial period," said Nick Luccketti, a founding member of the nonprofit First Colony Foundation. "It's a candidate for the first permanent English settlement on Roanoke Island, but I certainly wouldn't want to bet on it at this point."

Luccketti, who i s the principal archaeologist for the James River Institute for Archaeology in Williamsburg, said the bits of bone, fish scales and ceramic, as well as metal buckles and buttons, that were unearthed in a late November excavation appear to date to sometime between 1680 and 1750.

"There's a number of artifacts suggesting that the English were doing something there," he said.

Examination of the pottery pieces reveal that the latest the site was occupied "dates solidly to the first half of the 18th century," Luccketti said, but the earliest date - possibly the late 1600s - still has to be determined.

The excavation was one in a series of digs the foundation, which has a permit with the National Park Service, has conducted since it was established in 2004 to renew long-stalled exploration of Fort Raleigh on Roanoke Island.

Despite the link to national parks and being the purported location of the Lost Colony settlement, no evidence of either has ever been found during at least 33 excavations over decades.

The 117 men, women and children who made up what is known as the Lost Colony, the last of the 1584-87 Roanoke Voyages, settled on Roanoke Island, but no one knows precisely where. In addition, no one knows what happened to them after August 1587 - making their fate one of the oldest mysteries of Colonial America.

Phil Evans, the foundation's president, said the recent discovery is encouraging.

"It's significant, because this is the earliest we know where the English have come back," he said.

Meanwhile, the foundation also has plans to explore underwater at Broad Creek in Wanchese, where about a half-dozen pieces of copper and European glass beads were found about three years ago.

"What we have to find out is whether this is an accidental discovery or if there is an actual site there," Evans said. He hopes that even if it's submerged, it's intact.

The "fairly uncommon" bright blue glass beads are about the size of cross sections of miniature Tootsie Rolls, he said. Such beads have been found primarily at Spanish sites that dated to 1550 or earlier.

"The copper and the beads are remarkable because that suggests that whoever deposited this stuff along Broad Creek had contact with the Europeans," Evans said. "It's possible that Indians had contact with the Europeans before the Lost Colonists; it's just undocumented."

To learn more about the colonists, the foundation is also sending Colonial Williamsburg Foundation historian James Horn to London and Dublin to look at parish records. They could reveal whether the colonists knew one another before they came to London, and whether they may have come to the New World for religious, rather than economic, reasons.

"I think it helps illuminate who these people are," Evans said. "I think it's more to help the historians understand these people than the archaeologists. But then the two help each other."

Ireland is significant because it is the where John White, the colony's governor and Eleanor Dare's father, wrote about his attempt to find the colony.

"That's the last trace we have of John White," Evans said of the letter.

Between the research and the digs, the foundation is getting more insight into English colonization, albeit in small doses.

"We're beginning to understand a lot more, but it takes time," Evans said. "I'm pretty certain, even if I said, 'OK, here's what happened to the Lost Colony,' there'd be 15 people within 15 minutes who disagreed with me."

Catherine Kozak, (252) 441-1711, cate.kozak@pilotonline.com

http://hamptonroads.com/2009/04/nc-site-could-be-old-english-settlement
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Courtney Caine
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« Reply #1 on: April 07, 2009, 12:57:56 am »



Right: Phil Evans, president of First Colony Foundation, guides a group of visitors through a site at the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. Artifacts were found that could date to 1680. (Chris Curry | The Virginian-Pilot)
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Courtney Caine
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« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2009, 12:58:43 am »

The dig
The excavation in November was one in a series of digs the First Colony Foundation has conducted since it was established in 2004 to renew long-stalled exploration of Fort Raleigh on Roanoke Island. Bits of bone, fish scales and ceramic – as well as metal buckles and buttons – that were unearthed appear to be from a settlement from sometime between 1680 and 1750. The foundation also has plans to explore underwater at Broad Creek in Wanchese, where a few artifacts were found about three years ago.

Want to know more?
A new Web site under construction is expected to be available this spring at www.firstcolonyfoundation.org.
“Time Team America,” a new public TV series, in May filmed an excavation done by First Colony Foundation archaeologists. The episode, which focused on the search for the Lost Colony on Roanoke Island, is expected to air this summer.
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