UNC-CH: A Lost Colony Find

The Lost Colony is a mystery that has captivated North Carolinians for centuries.

In 1587, more than 100 English settlers came to Roanoke Island, commissioned by Queen Elizabeth I and led by Gov. John White, to establish a permanent settlement in the New World. Just three years later, when ships returned to bring supplies to the settlement, the island was deserted. There was no sign of the colonists except for the word “CROATOAN” carved into an abandoned structure and “CRO” etched into the bark of a tree.

Archaeologists recently uncovered a clue that doesn’t shed light on what happened to the lost colonists, but it may reveal more about their life on the island.

Eight pottery fragments of a single blue and white apothecary jar were found along the shoreline, about 75 yards from an earthen mound on Roanoke Island. J. Eric Deetz, an adjunct lecturer in the anthropology department in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences who serves on the board of directors of the nonprofitFirst Colony Foundation, identified the fragments.

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