Colonial map gives clue to Lost Colony’s fate
For more than four centuries the fate of the first English settlement in America has been a mystery, but a new look at an old map has yielded an intriguing clue about the fate of the Roanoke Colony.
A 425-year-old map was the key subject of a scholarly meeting Thursday at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as experts from the First Colony Foundation and the British Museum in London discussed what may have happened to the so-called Lost Colony, the settlers who disappeared from North Carolina’s Roanoke Island in the late 16th century.
“We believe that this evidence provides conclusive proof that they moved westward up the Albemarle Sound to the confluence of the Chowan and Roanoke rivers,” said James Horn, vice president of research and historical interpretation at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and author of a 2010 book about the Lost Colony.
“Their intention was to create a settlement. And this is what we believe we are looking at with this symbol – their clear intention, marked on the map …”
Scholars focused on the “Virginea Pars” map of Virginia and North Carolina created by explorer John White in the 1580s and owned by the British Museum since 1866.
Attached to the map are two patches, according to an Associated Press report.
“One patch appears to merely correct a mistake on the map, but the other – in what is modern-day Bertie County in northeastern North Carolina – hides what appears to be a fort. Another symbol, appearing to be the very faint image of a different kind of fort, is drawn on top of the patch,” according to the wire service.
The American and British scholars believe the fort symbol could indicate where the settlers went.
“First Colony Foundation researchers believe that it could mark, literally and symbolically, ‘the way to Jamestown,’” the museums said in a joint announcement “As such, it is a unique discovery of the first importance.”
The intention behind the venture was that it would provide riches from the New World and a privateering base from which to raid the treasure fleets of Spain.
Two groups of English colonists travelled to the colony, in 1585 and 1587. but the colony vanished sometime between August 1587 and 1590, when the colony’s governor returned to the island from a trip to England.
Historians and scholars have long debated what happened, but many believe at least some colonists moved about 50 miles south to the Native American capital on North Carolina’s Hatteras Island, as the message “CROATOAN,” found carved on a fence post, hinted. Croatoan was the name of the village.
The fate of the colony has never been determined.
White made the map and other drawings when he traveled to Roanoke Island in 1585. In 1587, a second colony of 116 English settlers landed on Roanoke Island, led by White.
He left the island for England for more supplies but couldn’t return again until 1590 because of a war between England and Spain.
“The discovery of the fort symbol offers the first new clue in centuries about what happened to the 95 or so settlers, experts said Thursday,” according to The Telegraph. “And researchers at the British Museum discovered it because Brent Lane, a member of the board of the First Colony Foundation, asked a seemingly obvious question: What’s under those two patches?
“Researchers say the patches attached to White’s excruciatingly accurate map were made with ink and paper contemporaneous with the rest of the map,” the wire service added. “One corrected mistakes on the shoreline of the Pamlico River and the placing of some villages. But the other covered the possible fort symbol, which is visible only when the map is viewed in a light box.”