In the movie “Groundhog Day,” Bill Murray’s character Phil Connors relives the same day over and over again with different things happening each time. In a similar way, American historians relive the story of what happened to Sir Walter Raleigh’s lost colony of Roanoke – the first English settlement in North America – with new theories on what happened to it popping up regularly. Just months after one group presented a convincing argument that the settlers moved to Hatteras Island and assimilated with the native Croatoan tribe, a new theory pops up that the settlers moved instead to a secret fort in North Carolina. North Carolina?
According to National Geographic, the new discovery began in 2012 when researchers studying a watercolor map of eastern North Carolina painted by John White, the governor of the Roanoke colony, and found a patch covering the image of a fort at the head of Albemarle Sound. On top of the patch was a faint outline of a fort drawn in invisible ink. At the time, researchers theorized that White was hiding the existence of the fort from the Spanish. (Photos here.) That discovery led archaeologist Nick Luccketti and his First Colony Foundation to begin searching the area for evidence of the lost colonists. That search paid off recently when, on a bluff overlooking Albemarle Sound, they found fragments of pottery with English, German, French, and Spanish origins. (Photos here.)
“The number and variety of artifacts recovered provide compelling evidence that the site was inhabited by several settlers from Sir Walter Raleigh’s vanished 1587 colony.”
Is this a ‘drop the mic’ moment in the hunt for the lost Roanoke colonists? Nick Luccketti believes it’s clear evidence that some of the settlers traveled 50 miles to North Carolina, took up residence and farmed the area while waiting for White to come back from England and rescue them – a happy ending that never happened. This theory fits in with the earlier one about the settlers moving to Hatteras Island since there’s evidence that the colonists had separated into two groups before leaving.
“If any of the inhabitants of the Lost Colony smoked, then they would have used native pipes rather than London-made ones.”
One person who agrees with Luccketti is Jacqui Pearce, a ceramic expert at the Museum of London, who says the lack of pieces of English-made clay smoking pipes, which came later to the colonies, puts the newly-discovered fragments in the proper time period. On the other hand, the fragments were found in soil that had been farmed and plowed for centuries afterward by settlers and slaves and no other evidence of a settlement has been found.
That means one thing: ‘Groundhog Day: The Lost Roanoke Colony’ will live another day.