Group seeking volunteers to clean, catalog artifacts
Lost Colony theory being developed by researchers

Washington Daily News, Washington, NC, November 3, 2006
Written by Nikie Mayo, Staff Writer

    A group of researchers determined to find out what happened to the Lost Colony will clean artifacts found at a Buxton excavation site when they gather at the old Farm Life School building in Jamesville this weekend.

    The Lost Colony Center for Science and Research is using archaeology, oral histories and satellite technology to try to uncover the migration path of the first English settlers and the Croatan Indians. Researchers hope to track them to present-day descendants in the area.

    "This is brand new research that until recently wasn't tested," said Fred Willard, the center's director. "This is the most exciting unsolved mystery in North America."

    Sir Walter Raleigh came to Roanoke Island in 1585 and established a settlement of 117 English men, women and children. The colonists endured the elements, attacks and hunger before they disappeared. Later dubbed the "Lost Colony," the only clue left to the settlers' whereabouts was the word "CROATOAN," which was carved in a post.

    The lives of the settlers are dramatized in Paul Green's play "The Lost Colony," which is regularly presented in an outdoor theater during warm-weather months.

    The researchers hope to solve their mystery. To that end, the group is seeking volunters to help clean and catalog items found during an archaeological dig on the Outer Banks this summer. The dig was held during late June and early July.

    The Martin County building they are gathering in Saturday was bought and given to the Lost Colony Center for Science and Research in May, according to the center's Web site. Willard said the building came from an anonymous donor in Durham.

    The research group incorporated in January, Willard said. "We need $5 million to really make this a full-fledged effort. Until now, it's been basically just something that people have been nibbling away at when they have the chance," Willard said.

    Willard says he hopes to increase the number of excavators involved and that volunteers are equally vital to the effort. "For every hour in the field, it takes five hours of lab work," he said.

    Researchers are tracking several surnames, including Elks, Gibbs, Brooks, Pierce and Squires. They hope to connect them to the Croatans. Some of that tracking has led them to Chocowinity, Willard said.

    They are still working on theories about the activities of the Croatans in the 100 years before their contact with the English. "The research is still very green," he said.

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