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America's Lost Colony: Can New Dig Solve Mystery?
National Geographic ^ | 3-2-2004 | Willie Drye

Posted on 03/03/2004 2:52:01 PM PST by blam

America's Lost Colony: Can New Dig Solve Mystery?

Willie Drye
for National Geographic News
March 2, 2004

More than four centuries ago, English colonists hoped to carve out a new life—and substantial profits—in the wild and strange land of North America. One group of colonists gave up and returned to England. A second colony, in what is now North Carolina, vanished in the 1580s and became immortalized in history as the "Lost Colony." Today the prosperous little town of Manteo, North Carolina, surrounds the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, a national park protecting the place where the English tried to establish their first American colony—before Plymouth, before even Jamestown.

Archaeologists know that the colonists spent some time at this spot on the north end of Roanoke Island, but they don't know much more about those unlucky settlers.

English courtier, navigator, and historian Sir Walter Raleigh (above) sponsored the first English colonists in North America. The settlers established a village on Roanoke Island (below), off the coast of present-day North Carolina.

Illustrations courtesy National Park Service

That might change soon, however. A group of archaeologists and historians met in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, earlier this month to launch the First Colony Foundation to raise money for new archaeological excavations in the Fort Raleigh park. They plan to start digging into one of the United States' most enduring historical puzzles early this summer.

Even as the excavation looms, not everyone is eager for the answer to the Lost Colony mystery. North Carolina attorney Phil Evans, who helped start the First Colony Foundation, said, "I've always said I'd be just as happy if it was never solved. I like it being a mystery."

First Settlement

The story of the first English colony in North America has been fascinating historians and curiosity seekers for a very long time. The saga began on a summer day 420 years ago when co-captain Arthur Barlowe and a few dozen other Englishmen stood at the railing of their ship and peered anxiously across the water at a strange new world.

They had no idea what to expect, but the odor wafting to them from the small islands off the coast of what is now North Carolina filled Barlowe with wild hopes. The vegetation was at its summer peak, and the aroma was like that of "some delicate garden" full of fragrant flowers, he wrote later.

Barlowe was part of an expedition sent by Sir Walter Raleigh, an English courtier, to find a place for a colony. Roanoke Island, protected from the Atlantic Ocean by the slender sand dunes that came to be known as the Outer Banks, seemed a likely spot.

The soil, Barlowe said, was "the most plentiful, sweet, wholesome and fruitful of all the world." And the Native Americans living on the island were, in Barlowe's opinion, "gentle, loving and faithful, void of all guile and treason."

Based on Barlowe's report and backed by Queen Elizabeth, Raleigh sent an all-male colony of more than a hundred settlers to Roanoke Island in July 1585. For a while things went well.

Among the colonists were a brilliant scientist named Thomas Hariot and artist John White. Hariot set up the New World's first science laboratory, while White made detailed maps and drawings of the Indians and his new surroundings.

Problems soon befell the Englishmen, however. The Indians, angered by the harsh tactics of the colony commander, Sir Ralph Lane, became hostile. Supply ships from England didn't arrive, and food became scarce. So when Sir Francis Drake, on his way home from the West Indies, arrived at Roanoke Island in the summer of 1586, the discouraged colonists opted to return to England with Drake.

When the supply ships arrived shortly after Drake's departure, the crews found only a deserted settlement. Sir Richard Grenville, commander of the supply fleet, left behind 15 men to hold the island and sailed back to England.

Later, at an abbey in Ireland, Hariot started writing a book about the wonderful new land on the other side of the world. But on Roanoke Island, the tiny English garrison left by Greenville was in serious trouble.

The Indians had decided they'd had enough of the foreigners and attacked the settlement. The outnumbered Englishmen scrambled into their boat and fled.

They were never seen again.

Second Attempt

A second colony of about 115 English settlers—including women and children—landed on Roanoke Island in August 1587. They found only the charred ruins of the village. It was an ominous welcome. But the colonists decided to rebuild and make a new start.

John White, the artist who had returned as governor of the second colony, went back to England to gather more supplies. He intended to return to Roanoke Island right away, but war between England and Spain delayed him.

When White finally reached Roanoke Island in August 1590, he discovered that something had gone terribly wrong on the sweet-smelling island of fruitful soil. The colony was gone.

The only clue left was the cryptic word "Croatoan" carved on a tree. The word could have been a reference to a tribe of friendly Indians who lived south of Roanoke Island.

Some scholars think Indians may have killed the colonists; others think the English settlers moved farther inland and married into Native American tribes. A third theory says the colonists were killed by Spanish troops who came up from Florida. No one knows for certain what happened to the colonists.

The site of the settlement began gradually disappearing beneath the vegetation and shifting sands of Roanoke Island.

In 1607 England sent more colonists to the New World. This time they landed up the coast from Roanoke Island and founded a settlement called Jamestown in what is now Virginia. This colony managed to hold on through difficult times, and England had its permanent presence in North America. The Lost Colony of 1587 became a historical curiosity.

Recent Clues

Souvenir seekers have been digging on Roanoke Island at least since 1653, when trader John Farrar and three friends from Virginia landed on the island and left with artifacts from the English colonies.

Union soldiers stationed on Roanoke Island during the Civil War dug for artifacts, and in 1895, Philadelphia journalist Talcott Williams, who was also an amateur archaeologist, did some excavations in the area now enclosed by the national park boundaries.

Professional archaeologists have done several excavations since the late 1940s. They found artifacts undoubtedly left by the colonists, including remains from Hariot's science laboratory. But they didn't find the site of the colonists' village.

The members of the First Colony Foundation hope to learn more about Hariot's laboratory and the location of the village. Their curiosity has been piqued by several clues.

In 1982 Evans—who was then a student working at the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site—discovered the remains of an old well thought to be from the 16th century. Evans found the remnants in Roanoke Sound, an indication of serious erosion on the northern end of the island.

In 2000 National Park Service archaeologists using ground-penetrating radar discovered rectangular-shaped objects buried beneath several feet of sand. (Park Service staff did not excavate the objects, but suspect they could be related to Hariot's work.) In 2002 a swimmer stepped on a 16th-century ax head in shallow water just off the northern end of Roanoke Island.

Finding the well and the ax head offshore has prompted some members of the First Colony Foundation to wonder if the site of the colonists' village eroded away and now is submerged. Underwater archaeologist Gordon Watts says that at least 600 feet (180 meters) and perhaps as much as a quarter-mile (0.4 kilometer) of the island has gone underwater since the 16th century.

"That's one fact that you cannot ignore," Watts said. "If you're doing a comprehensive search for the 1585-1587 settlement, you can't ignore the possibility that the site is now underwater."

Like any classic mystery, however, there's polite disagreement among some of the experts about where the village might have been. Acclaimed archaeologist Ivor Noël-Hume, who led an excavation in the Fort Raleigh National Historic Park in the 1990s, thinks it's highly unlikely the village site is now underwater.

"That's only a personal view, I do assure you," Noël-Hume said. "I wouldn't want to discourage further excavations. But I think you're going to find the remains of the settlement on a piece of land."

Noël-Hume says he'd like to see an excavation done in an area of sand dunes near the beach on the northern end. That could be "very informative," he says.

Virginia archaeologist Nick Luccketti, who also has worked at Fort Raleigh, says he has a reason to believe that maybe the village site hasn't been lost to erosion. "I've talked to collectors who have walked the beach on the north end for 30 years, and they don't have any 16th-century European artifacts in their collections," Luccketti said.

Despite their disagreements about where the colonial village may have been, the experts concur that the English effort to plant colonies on Roanoke Island was a milestone in U.S. history.

"It earned its place in American history when Thomas Hariot worked in the science center and sent back a report that said America is worthy of commercial investment," Noël-Hume said.

Luccketti thinks lessons learned at Roanoke Island helped ensure the survival of the Jamestown colony 20 years later. Hariot told the Jamestown colonists about the Native Americans' extreme fondness for copper ornaments, and so the colonists brought copper with them. When the Jamestown colonists were on the verge of starving, they traded copper to the Indians for food, and that saved the Jamestown colony from extinction, Luccketti says.

Still, Evans thinks the mystery of the Lost Colony also is important because it lures people into the story of Roanoke Island.

"As long as the Lost Colony is unexplained, it stays fascinating for a lot of people," Evans said. "It's their entry into the story. They go in trying to figure out what happened to the colonists, and then they learn history. I don't want to take away the mystery. That's what makes it different and exciting."


TOPICS: News/Current Events; US: North Carolina; US: Virginia
KEYWORDS: americas; archaeology; colony; dig; economic; ggg; godsgravesglyphs; history; jamestown; lost; lostcolony; manteo; mystery; roanoke; solve; virginiadare
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1 posted on 03/03/2004 2:52:02 PM PST by blam
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To: farmfriend
My English ancestors (the Lamb family) came to America in 1733 with James Oglethorpe
2 posted on 03/03/2004 2:59:39 PM PST by blam
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To: kjenerette
...great read for your class.
3 posted on 03/03/2004 3:00:12 PM PST by Van Jenerette (Our Republic...If we can keep it!)
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To: blam
Geeze, blam.....just when I think I couldn't love you more, you pull out THIS wonderful article.

Very ironic: Just an hour ago I was googling Roanoake Island looking for a vacation destination. And NOW I'm sold! I'm going there.........film at eleven........................~</;o)
4 posted on 03/03/2004 3:11:18 PM PST by EggsAckley (..................IGNORE the trolls...................it drives them crazy)
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To: EggsAckley
"And NOW I'm sold! I'm going there."

Good for you. Spend your vacation money in the good ole USA!

5 posted on 03/03/2004 3:18:21 PM PST by blam
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To: blam
Bush knew!
6 posted on 03/03/2004 3:20:52 PM PST by billorites (freepo ergo sum)
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To: blam
So your folks came over on the prison ship.
7 posted on 03/03/2004 3:25:03 PM PST by yarddog
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To: EggsAckley
I was googling Roanoake Island looking for a vacation destination. And NOW I'm sold! I'm

It's where I go when I can. Nag's Head is current favorite. Very much family oriented. Rented a beachfront house with 5 or six bedrooms for $1100 a couple of years back, took three families of friends with us and had the time of our lives.

8 posted on 03/03/2004 3:34:38 PM PST by don-o
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To: yarddog
"So your folks came over on the prison ship."

Yup. Debtors prison. (My dad finally paid all the debts, lol)

9 posted on 03/03/2004 3:43:50 PM PST by blam
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To: blam
I can't remember if I ever asked you or not. Are you kin to the Las Vegas Lambs? How about the Arkansas Lambs and Merle Haggard?
10 posted on 03/03/2004 4:08:25 PM PST by JudyB1938
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To: JudyB1938
"Are you kin to the Las Vegas Lambs? How about the Arkansas Lambs and Merle Haggard?"

Not to my knowledge.

11 posted on 03/03/2004 4:16:29 PM PST by blam
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To: blam; *Gods, Graves, Glyphs; A.J.Armitage; abner; adam_az; AdmSmith; Alas Babylon!; ...
Gods, Graves, Glyphs
List for articles regarding early civilizations , life of all forms, - dinosaurs - etc.
Let me know if you wish to be added or removed from this ping list.
12 posted on 03/03/2004 4:45:01 PM PST by farmfriend ( Isaiah 55:10,11)
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To: EggsAckley; Constitution Day; azhenfud; mykdsmom; Howlin
Went there every year growing up. Don't miss the Elizabethan Gardens. A lot of people don't go there but it's a beautiful walk. It's the same turnoff as the Lost Colony. Back in 1987, they used to have actors that had set up camp in the same fashion the original 15 did. Completely in character, they wouldn't acknowledge any invention after the 1580s. Don't think they're there anymore but last I heard there are still actors on Elizabeth II, a sailable replica of the original ship. Also not completely historically accurate don't miss The Lost Colony the play

NC history ping!!

13 posted on 03/03/2004 5:34:28 PM PST by billbears (Deo Vindice.)
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To: blam
Latecomers, eh?

To be FFV, your ancestors needed to have been in Virginia before 1650.

14 posted on 03/03/2004 5:36:32 PM PST by CatoRenasci (Ceterum Censeo [Gallia][Germania][Arabia] Esse Delendam --- Select One or More as needed)
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To: CatoRenasci
LOL, I traced my family back to the late 1600's only to discover my roots....

It which point I called my brother and started screaming...."Dear G-D, we are Yankees!"

15 posted on 03/03/2004 5:41:49 PM PST by CathyRyan
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To: CatoRenasci
"To be FFV, your ancestors needed to have been in Virginia before 1650."

What's FFV?

16 posted on 03/03/2004 5:50:14 PM PST by blam
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To: farmfriend
bump
17 posted on 03/03/2004 6:15:58 PM PST by VOA
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To: blam
I think it is First Families of Virginia.

I am not certain of the dates but I think some of my ancestors might quality. My GG?-Father, (forgot how many), G's was William Byrd of Westover. I think they may have come over before 1650.

18 posted on 03/03/2004 6:27:43 PM PST by yarddog
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To: blam
First Families of Virginia
(I think)
19 posted on 03/03/2004 6:27:43 PM PST by tgslTakoma (Fayetteville, NC - 3/20/04 - Help defend US soldiers and families from Reds-led "peace" rioters.)
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To: tgslTakoma
Ha!

Beat you by less than a second.

20 posted on 03/03/2004 6:28:30 PM PST by yarddog
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To: yarddog
Whoa!
21 posted on 03/03/2004 6:36:29 PM PST by tgslTakoma (Fayetteville, NC - 3/20/04 - Help defend US soldiers and families from Reds-led "peace" rioters.)
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To: EggsAckley
Very ironic: Just an hour ago I was googling Roanoake Island looking for a vacation destination. And NOW I'm sold! I'm going there.........film at eleven........................~

Look a couple of miles east, in Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills or Kitty Hawk. Even further north, in Duck or Corrola. I've spent many a happy vacation hours in the Outer Banks over the past 40 years, but I prefer to be close enough to the ocean to hear the surf. The only place that I've found better on the East Coast (speaking liberally) is the Keys, in Florida.

22 posted on 03/03/2004 6:36:50 PM PST by jackbill
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To: jackbill
Thanks for the tips. Kitty Hawk sounds great. I'm getting excited; the Outer Bank is looking really good!
23 posted on 03/03/2004 6:38:14 PM PST by EggsAckley (..................IGNORE the trolls...................it drives them crazy)
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To: tgslTakoma
P.S. My family wouldn't qualify.

I guess you'd call us newbies.

24 posted on 03/03/2004 6:38:46 PM PST by tgslTakoma (Fayetteville, NC - 3/20/04 - Help defend US soldiers and families from Reds-led "peace" rioters.)
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To: tgslTakoma
Most of my family has been in Florida since the late 1700's. My Great-Grandfather came from Georgia in 1873 and we still consider him an interloper.
25 posted on 03/03/2004 6:42:39 PM PST by yarddog
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To: yarddog
#24 wasn't supposed to be me talking to myself (though I do that often)... further disclaimer: None of my ancestors ever settled in VA, either.

I guess we could claim the title of one of the Last Conservative Families in nuclear-free Takoma Park, MD though.

26 posted on 03/03/2004 6:43:27 PM PST by tgslTakoma (Fayetteville, NC - 3/20/04 - Help defend US soldiers and families from Reds-led "peace" rioters.)
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To: blam
Didn't later explorers run across some groups of Indians with light-colored eyes that could have been the descendants of the intermarriage of the English lost colony and native Americans?
27 posted on 03/03/2004 6:45:24 PM PST by Ciexyz
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To: Ciexyz
"Didn't later explorers run across some groups of Indians with light-colored eyes that could have been the descendants of the intermarriage of the English lost colony and native Americans?"

Many stories like that one...none proven that I know of.

28 posted on 03/03/2004 6:49:58 PM PST by blam
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To: blam
None proven that I know of.

Well, they didn't have video cameras back then! I'd like to think it was possible, that they didn't just perish from hunger or slaughter, but intermarried with a friendly Indian tribe for survival.

29 posted on 03/03/2004 6:52:40 PM PST by Ciexyz
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To: blam
Thanks for another great post. :)

The hunt for the Lost Colony should move farther West.

Co- Captain Arthur Barlowe.I found his knife,Barlow printed right on the blade,in the Mo. Ozarks,definite proof they moved West. ;)

30 posted on 03/03/2004 6:58:28 PM PST by Free Trapper (One with courage is often a majority.)
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To: Free Trapper
"Co- Captain Arthur Barlowe.I found his knife,Barlow printed right on the blade,in the Mo. Ozarks,definite proof they moved West. ;)"

That's fascinating. One of these captains or co-captains daughters were lost with this group.

31 posted on 03/03/2004 7:05:38 PM PST by blam
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To: Ciexyz
" I'd like to think it was possible, that they didn't just perish from hunger or slaughter, but intermarried with a friendly Indian tribe for survival."

It could easily have happened. I read something else on this story and the Indians they possibly went with. I just remember one thing right now.

32 posted on 03/03/2004 7:12:34 PM PST by blam
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To: Ciexyz
I'd like to think it was possible, that they didn't just perish from hunger or slaughter, but intermarried with a friendly Indian tribe for survival.

That is one of the theories. There is a 'tribe' in SE N. Carolina called the Lumbee. Many of them have blond hair and they believe that trait is from Lost Colony survivors.

33 posted on 03/03/2004 7:14:08 PM PST by Vinnie
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To: blam
Would that be the mother of Virginia Dare?
34 posted on 03/03/2004 7:14:30 PM PST by Free Trapper (One with courage is often a majority.)
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To: blam
"One of these captains or co-captains daughters were lost with this group."

Virginia Dare.

35 posted on 03/03/2004 7:16:27 PM PST by okie01 (www.ArmorforCongress.com...because Congress isn't for the morally halt and the mentally lame.)
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To: Free Trapper; okie01
"Would that be the mother of Virginia Dare?"

Don't think so. The woman I'm talking about was lost with the Lost Colony.

Virginia Dare was the first child of English parents born in America.

36 posted on 03/03/2004 7:40:52 PM PST by blam
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To: Vinnie; Ciexyz
"That is one of the theories. There is a 'tribe' in SE N. Carolina called the Lumbee."

This isn't the correct spelling but isn't the some Indians of mixed blood in that region named Mulegeons? (or something like that)

37 posted on 03/03/2004 7:44:01 PM PST by blam
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To: blam
"Virginia Dare was the first child of English parents born in America."

Of course. My mistake.

38 posted on 03/03/2004 7:44:43 PM PST by okie01 (www.ArmorforCongress.com...because Congress isn't for the morally halt and the mentally lame.)
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To: Vinnie
Lumbee Indians
39 posted on 03/03/2004 7:46:10 PM PST by blam
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To: blam; okie01
I think your link explains that Virginia dare and her mother were amongst those who disappeared.

I read a headstone had been found that had one of the Dare's names on it but don't remember if it was a good find or a hoax.

I'm not very good with searching for such things but the story shouldn't be hard to find for anyone interested.

40 posted on 03/03/2004 7:59:54 PM PST by Free Trapper (One with courage is often a majority.)
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To: Free Trapper; blam
Free Trapper and blam are both correct:

1. Virginia Dare was the first child born of English parents in America.

2. Virginia Dare and her mother both disappeared with the Lost Colony.

Source

41 posted on 03/03/2004 8:10:17 PM PST by okie01 (www.ArmorforCongress.com...because Congress isn't for the morally halt and the mentally lame.)
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To: okie01
"Free Trapper and blam are both correct: "

Excellent. Thanks.

42 posted on 03/03/2004 8:13:39 PM PST by blam
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To: blam
What's FFV?

If you have to ask, it won't mean anything to you....but, since you did, it's First Families of Virginia.

43 posted on 03/03/2004 8:20:25 PM PST by CatoRenasci (Ceterum Censeo [Gallia][Germania][Arabia] Esse Delendam --- Select One or More as needed)
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To: CathyRyan
LOL, I traced my family back to the late 1600's only to discover my roots....

It which point I called my brother and started screaming...."Dear G-D, we are Yankees!"

Oh, the Shame.... Dear, How could you Go On? But, had your people come South before The War? If so, you are redeemed. And better yet if they had come South before the Revolution. But anytime before (what my Grandmother called) The Late Unpleasantness will do.

44 posted on 03/03/2004 8:28:01 PM PST by CatoRenasci (Ceterum Censeo [Gallia][Germania][Arabia] Esse Delendam --- Select One or More as needed)
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To: blam
Hey, you all missed something. They think this is under water. You know, with the global warming causing rising sea levels, this is expected.

However, you'd think the civil war solders would have stumbled right onto it, since we all know global warming is caused by cars, and they didn't have cars back then, did they?

45 posted on 03/03/2004 8:30:17 PM PST by T. P. Pole
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To: blam


http://genweb.whipple.org/d0157/I75425.html







46 posted on 03/03/2004 8:34:14 PM PST by autoresponder (JAMES BOND: http://00access.tripod.com/007.html J-FK: http://00access.tripod.com/Kerry-11.html)
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To: EggsAckley
The Outer Banks are great.
My family and I have vacationed there every summer since I was a baby. (Nags Head, specifically)
47 posted on 03/04/2004 5:13:29 AM PST by Constitution Day ("The germ of dissolution of our federal government is in the constitution of the federal Judiciary.")
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To: blam
I grew up in that area and spent many a day trampling through the Roanoke Island woods and fishing off Mann's Harbor. Telling the Virginia Dare and many other legends around the campfire kept us awake many a night. Never found any relics of the colony, but that's not too surprising considering the large areas of bogs, etc. I did find a couple of relics from the Confederate forts, however.

I wonder if Andy Griffith will let the archaeologists examine his compound?

48 posted on 03/04/2004 5:27:10 AM PST by Jonah Hex (Another day, another DU troll.)
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To: CatoRenasci
Thank you for your reply. It gave me great comfort. They came south in the early 1700s. It was just the shock of it all... ;) LOL
49 posted on 03/04/2004 5:32:19 AM PST by CathyRyan
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To: blam
If you're interested in Roanoke Island, I highly recommend the book by Lee Miller about it, written about 5 years ago. Even if you don't buy into everything she says, her research is extensive and fascinating. She believes the lost colony was sabotaged from the outset and she treats her investigation like a murder story. She is also a descendent of Native Americans and has some personal knowledge of events that were mentioned in period diaries. She believes that we must look find what was happening in England to understand what was happening at Roanoke. I couldn't put the book down after I started it.
50 posted on 03/04/2004 6:05:25 AM PST by twigs
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