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STATES CHRONICLE – Roanoke Island, or rather the fate of its colonists, is one of the most discussed folklore mysteries in American culture, to date. Recent archaeological finds, however, could shed some light on what happened to the colonists who settled on the island more than four centuries ago.
On July 4th, 1584, Sir Walter Raleigh’s scouting party arrived on Roanoke Island. It was deemed satisfactory for a settlement. In 1587, the settlement had a population of over 200 colonists. In 1590, John White, a settler and close friend of Sir Walter Raleigh, returned to Roanoke after traveling to England.
John White found the settlement entirely abandoned, with no trace of his family, or any of the colonists, and no signs of struggles or battles being fought. The word Croatoan, the name of a nearby island, was carved into a tree near the settlement, but White was never able to find out if the colonists moved there or if the Native Americans on the island had been responsible.
More recently, in 1940, archaeology sites officially began excavation and research at Roanoke. Answers were being unearthed slowly, however. The dig site did fuel several entirely different theories, but so far it was now not able to tell the modern world clearly what happened to the lost colonists of Roanoke settlement.
Two recently excavated fragments of pottery are adding more certainty that perhaps the Roanoke settlers had been driven away by a harrowing disease.
Archaeologists believe that the pieces were part of a jar which held medicinal ointment. The colors and pottery style clearly indicates that the item was made by and belonged to one of the colonists.
The site puts the final resting place of the original jar, closer to the fort rather than the actual settlement but too far for the jar to have been discarded or left empty during the time.
Researchers are currently analyzing the possibility that a disease forced surviving members of the colony to abandon their homes.
In 2015, archaeological evidence at another dig site suggests that whatever the reason the colonists had to leave, they headed northwest. Gun flintlocks, metal hook, and storage jars were found 50 miles northwest of the Roanoke settlement.
This evidence would suggest that the migrating colonists probably were assimilated by the nearby native tribes.
The two white and blue pottery shards are considered by archaeologists to be the most interesting and significant pottery find on Roanoke Island since the 1940s.