First Colony Foundation Using Archaeology and Historical Research to Find Sir Walter Raleigh's Roanoke Island Colonies
In Search of the First Colony
Testing Continues at Site X
August 10, 2015

First Colony archaeologists conduct excavations at Site X
First Colony archaeologists conduct excavations at Site X
In late July, Nick Luccketti directed a small team of archaeologists to Site X, the focus of FCF investigations on the locality indicated on Raleigh's 'Virginea Pars' map of eastern North Carolina as the possible location of a colonial outpost. Our evidence continues to mount that this site deserves further, and more intense, archaeological investigation.

Archaeologists and historians of the First Colony Foundation have followed up a 2012 map discovery with three years of investigation. Evidence has been found to support an interpretation that a few of the Lost Colonists were present for some time on a site in the area concealed on a 16th century map made by John White, the colony's governor and grandfather of Virginia Dare.

The First Colony Foundation, a non-profit research organization, will hold a news briefing at 10:00 on Tuesday 11 August 2015 in the Pleasants Family Assembly Room at Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 2012, following an inquiry from FCF, British Museum curators discovered on Sir Walter Raleigh's map of coastal North Carolina the hidden image of a Renaissance-style fort at the head of the Albemarle Sound. The following year, FCF began archaeological fieldwork in Bertie County, NC, to determine if Elizabethans had been present at the symbol's location. Foundation officers will describe the fieldwork, present evidence for their findings, and announce future research plans. Questions from the public will be entertained at the conclusion of the briefing, after which FCF researchers will be available for interviews.

Documentary and cartographic evidence, most notably the Virginea Pars map, attest to Sir Walter Raleigh's Roanoke colonists having a strong interest in the western Albemarle Sound. The First Colony Foundation believes that it may have uncovered archaeological evidence of Roanoke colonists presence at Site X in that area. The artifact assemblage from the limited area that has been excavated so far, particularly the relatively large amount of Surrey-Hampshire Border ware, as well as sherds of North Devon plain baluster jar, which were provisioning jars for sea voyages, leads us to postulate that these finds are the result of Roanoke colonist activity at the site and are not related to later English settlement in the area. Additionally, we submit that this evidence is more likely the result of the 1587 colony's stated plan to relocate from Roanoke Island rather than possible brief visits in previous years by exploratory parties under Philip Amadas or Ralph Lane. The excavation of domestic table wares from several different diagnostic vessels along with other less diagnostic, but possibly contemporaneous artifacts, strongly suggests that the above mentioned European presence was of a longer duration and the activities different from those recorded for the pre-1587 English exploration of the lower Chowan River basin. Further excavation should help determine the nature and duration of the apparent Elizabethan presence at Site X. At the present, the First Colony Foundation does not contend that Site X on its own represents the relocation site for the majority of 1587 colonists. It is perhaps that of a small group of survivors such as those indicated on the 1608 Zuniga manuscript map.

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