The artifacts found in Bertie County are believed to belong to the 16th century Lost Colony from Roanoke Island, the first English colony in North America.
The Chowan River bridge had been inhabited by Native Americans, and then by the first English settlers. The site later became a governor’s plantation.
The Bertie County Artifacts
In 2007, a company planned to build a new subsidiary on the location. While gathering the necessary documentation for the project, the company commissioned an archaeological survey. As it turned out, a number of early English potteries had been found on the premises. Thus, the construction never started.
Five years later, scientists discovered on a 16th-century map drawn by John White something that resembled a fort and which was located near Chowan River. The place on the map matched with the location where the artifacts had been found.
John White left for England in 1587, at which point he instructed the colony to move 50 miles “into the main.” As this was the only clue that archaeologists had on the location, it was hard to figure out where the colony ended up.
The Bertie site is located at 49.32 nautical miles away from Roanoke Island, the last known location of the English settlement, and the place where John White left for England.
More than 850 square feet of a tract were excavated in Chowan River, and the artifacts that were found included bale seals, nails, and pottery jars.
The Lost Colony
John White participated in all three expeditions led by Sir Walter Raleigh in North Carolina. In 1585 and 1586, he collected cartographic information and draw the map that is now preserved at the British Museum in London.
The next year, he returned to Roanoke Island together with his daughter Eleanor and his son-in-law, Ananias Dare. Eleanor gave birth to the first English baby in North America on the 18th of August 1587. The same year, John White left the colony to resupply.
John White returned after three years and found no traces of the settlement. The word “Croatoan” had been carved in a post and on a tree. Therefore, he left to find the Croatoan tribe in Buxton, but he did not find any information on the English.
In 1587, the colony had 116 members.
The search had to be abandoned because of the weather, and John White came back to England in October 1590. He never returned to the New World, as the loss of his daughter and niece became a personal tragedy for him.
Jamestown leaders sent a search party for the colonists, but the party never arrived at the Bertie site because of their bad relations with the Native Americans.
The Croatan tribe had been previously attacked by the colonists, and many of their members had been killed by the English. The current hypothesis is that the colony members had been attacked by the Croatan tribe, who were scavenging for food during a tough drought.
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