At the Lost Colony of Roanoke, a Hunt for What Came Before

New dig to focus on scientific research done before the first settlers arrived
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 18, 2021 8:00 AM CDT

As far as single, enduring mysterious words go, a few stand out: Rosebud, for one. Croatoan, for another. That was the word found carved at the so-called Lost Colony, the one founded on Roanoke Island by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1587. A resupply mission that arrived three years later found no residents, just that clue. Archaeologists began a series of digs this week in hopes of learning more about what once was there—even before those settlers arrived. NPR reports the First Colony Foundation and the National Park Service are teaming up on the digs at the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, which will run through Sept. 24.

A press release explains the 117 settlers who arrived there weren't the first people to come to the land from England. There were two earlier expeditions, the more significant of which was a yearlong stay on the island beginning in 1585 and led by Captain Ralph Lane, who was tasked with detailing the resources available there. The release explains the heart of the archaeological work being undertaken now is related to the remains of the scientific workshop created by two members of Lane's party, one a "mineral man" tasked with studying the samples members of the expedition found.

"This dig includes new ground that's never been tested archaeologically," says Jami Lanier of the National Park Service. "So, it's very exciting to see what may be found." WRAL notes that the area being explored has been excavated before, but "the researchers said thanks to new knowledge of what life was like in the 1500s, their main goal with this dig was to find more information about the town the settlers left behind." (More archaeology stories.)

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