One of the most enduring mysteries for North Carolinians is the Lost Colony. A group of English settlers founded a colony on Roanoke Island in 1587. The leader of the colony, John White, returned to England for supplies. When he returned in 1590, he found no sign of the settlers. The only clue was the word “Croatoan” carved on a tree. Historians are unsure whether the colonists moved to live among the friendly Croatoan tribe or were killed by the unfriendly Wanchese tribe.
A map found in 2012 led archaeologists to a site in Bertie County. So far, they have found broken pottery from that time period, and while that might not seem exciting, it could indicate a settlement that existed for several years.
The clue has to do with one of two small correction patches on La Virginea Pars, a late-16th century British map of the North Carolina and Virginia coastal region currently in the British Museum in London.
Researchers at the museum closely examined the surface of the patch in Bertie County, N.C. and used modern scanning technology to look beneath the patch in 2012.
Researchers found a bright red and blue symbol of a fort underneath the patch, and on the surface, they found a separate fort symbol in scratch marks, which are thought to be from the quill of a pen writing in invisible ink.
The hidden fort symbol lies on the Albemarle Sound in modern-day Bertie County, which is west of Roanoke Island. Sources made available after the colonists disappeared from Roanoke reference plans to resettle the mainland, and the fort in Bertie County is now suspected to be the realization of those plans.
In 2012, researchers from the First Colony Foundation and the British Museum announced they had found a tantalizing clue about the fate of the Lost Colony in a long-forgotten map.
Tests on a map drawn by White have found the possible location of what may have been the intended capital of the colony near Roanoke Island, apparently drawn in invisible ink. There is a hidden symbol indicating a fort that is about 50 miles inland.
The inked symbol, which is also hidden by a piece of paper glued over it, was likely drawn with a mix of milk and citrus juice or urine, commonly used for invisible writing during the era.
North Carolina Miscellany, a blog by the North Carolina Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, reported that information presented in 2012 indicated that before White left his fellow colonists in 1587, the settlers had already discussed moving about 50 miles inland.
That won’t satisfy some folks, of course. They do want that “smoking gun” that indicates without a doubt that’s the location of the settlement. Any theory based on circumstantial evidence won’t pass the test for them.
But that’s the best anyone can hope for 525 years after the disappearance. It will be interesting to see how the researchers’ investigation plays out. If they decide they’ve found the settlement and a majority of historians agree, then textbook authors and producers of “The Lost Colony” will be undertaking some revisions.
h/t Digital mix guy