425-year-old map offers new clues to the disappearance of the lost Roanoke Colony

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The fates of the Roanoke colonists, who vanished from the banks of what is now North Carolina in the late 16th century, have never been fully settled. While several native tribes claim their descent from Roanoke colonists (and Supernatural saddled the settlement with a demon virus), a 425-year-old maps suggests that at least some of the colonists may have moved west.

The British Museum has owned this map, created in 1585 by Roanoke governor John White (the very man who returned to the colony in 1590 to find it abandoned) since 1866. But for the first time, researchers have examined the area beneath two patches attached to the map. One of these patches appears to be a mere correction to the map, but underneath the other patch is a symbol denoting a fort. The patches appear to be contemporaneous with the rest of the map, and this symbol offers the first new clue to the colonists' disappearance in centuries.


James Horn, vice president of research and historical interpretation at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and author of A Kingdom Strange: The Brief and Tragic History of the Lost Colony of Roanoke, believes that this mark is proof that the colonists intended to settle an area west of the colony:

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.


The area on the map is privately owned, but archaeologists say this clue offers them plenty to study and reexamine even without excavating the land. It will be interesting to see if this yields evidence of a Roanoke migration west while other groups continue to investigate whether people descended from the Croatans of Hatteras Island or other nearby tribes share some of the colonists' DNA. Perhaps there are multiple solutions to the mystery of Roanoke.

Ancient map gives clue to fate of 'Lost Colony' [The Telegraph via reddit]