CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – A new look at a 425-year-old map has yielded a tantalizing clue about the fate of the Lost Colony, the settlers who disappeared from North Carolina’s Roanoke Island in the late 16th century.
Experts from the First Colony Foundation and the British Museum in London discussed their findings Thursday at a scholarly meeting on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Their focus: the “Virginea Pars” map of Virginia and North Carolina created by explorer John White in the 1580s and owned by the British Museum since 1866.
“We believe that this evidence provides conclusive proof that they moved westward up the Albemarle Sound to the confluence of the Chowan and Roanoke rivers,” said James Horn, vice president of research and historical interpretation at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and author of a 2010 book about the Lost Colony.
“Their intention was to create a settlement. And this is what we believe we are looking at with this symbol – their clear intention, marked on the map …”
Attached to the map are two patches. One patch appears to merely correct a mistake on the map, but the other – in northeastern North Carolina – hides what appears to be a fort. Another symbol, appearing to be the very faint image of a different kind of fort, is drawn on top of the patch.
The American and British scholars believe the fort symbol could indicate where the settlers went.
In a joint announcement, the museums said, “First Colony Foundation researchers believe that it could mark, literally and symbolically, ‘the way to Jamestown.’ As such, it is a unique discovery of the first importance.”
Researchers say the patches attached to White’s excruciatingly accurate map were made with ink and paper contemporaneous with the rest of the map. The possible fort symbol is visible only when the map is viewed in a light box.