Lost Colony Of Roanoke: New Archaeological Find Reveals New Evidence Of Settlement

The lost colony of Roanoke may be a little less “lost” this week. That’s because archaeologists have discovered new evidence of the existence of the lost colony in North Carolina. The evidence? European pottery shards, which were discovered by scientists excavating the site where we now believe the Roanoke colonists may have put down roots. It has been centuries upon centuries since the Roanoke colony was settled; European colonists first came to the area in the 1580s.

According to researchers, the newly-discovered pieces of pottery may be fragments of a medicine jar belonging to an important settler, Thomas Harriot. Harriot was only involved in one of the expeditions to the lost colony of Roanoke. Alternatively, the pottery pieces may have belonged to another member of one of the expeditions or one of the lost colonists, reports Ancient Origins.

The pieces are believed to be part of an ointment or medicine jar used in the lost colony of Roanoke. Measurements indicate that the unbroken jar would have been roughly three inches tall and one and a half inches in diameter. While that may seem small and insignificant, it is actually the most notable pottery find related to the lost colony of Roanoke since the 1940s. This is reported by archaeologist Eric Deetz, a member of the First Colony Foundation.

Archaeologists believe that either Herriot or other members of the lost colony of Roanoke could have used the intact jar to store or mix medicines or ointments. One of the ingredients stored in the jar, back when it was whole, may have been sassafras, common on Roanoke Island.


The lost colony of Roanoke was originally settled by European colonists in 1584. Secondary groups of settlers came to the island in 1585 and 1587. Famed settler Harriot came to the Roanoke colony during the 1585 expedition. While he was there, he drew maps, learned the native language of the Algonquian people and made notes on local flora and fauna.

Harriot later returned to his home in England and was not among those lost when the colonists settling Roanoke Island disappeared.

The colonists of Roanoke were sent to the island off the coast of North Carolina by Sir Walter Raleigh, and nobody knows what happened to them between 1587 and 1590, other than that they disappeared virtually without a trace. One of the settlers (and leaders) of the lost colony of Roanoke, John White, went back to England for supplies in 1587. War delayed his return to Roanoke until 1590, and when he got back, all of the colonists were gone and the lost colony of Roanoke was empty.

All that was left behind was the word “Croatoan” carved on a post and the letters “CRO” carved into a tree.

While no one knows for sure what happened to the lost colony of Roanoke, modern researchers, scientists, and archaeologists commonly concede that the lost colony most likely simply collapsed (perhaps due to famine or pestilence, no one knows for sure), and that any surviving colonists simply scattered to other areas to survive. Many of those colonists are believed to have gone to Hatteras Island and the mainland of North Carolina.

Both sites have been at least partially excavated by archaeologists in 2015, and artifacts were discovered at both locations that could have come from 16th century Europe. Many, however, question that the artifacts came from settlers from the Roanoke colony. Archaeologist Nichola M. Lucketti, however, thinks that the artifacts are directly related to the lost colony of Roanoke.

“We have evidence from this site that strongly indicates that there were Roanoke colonists here.No signs of a fort or other structures have been found, but the aggregate of the artifacts convinced the archaeologists that at least a few of the colonists wound up there.”

The first permanent English colony was Jamestown, established in 1607. Those “original” U.S. colonists knew about the lost colony of Roanoke, established and tragically lost 20 years prior and reportedly tried to find survivors. Reportedly, the Jamestown settlers tried on multiple occasions to find the lost colonists and even utilized the help of local Native Americans, but no survivors were ever found.

The history of the lost colony of Roanoke can be found here. To date, what happened to the lost colony (and colonists) of Roanoke is one of the greatest American mysteries.

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