The focus: the "Virginea Pars" map of Virginia and North Carolina created by explorer John White in the 1580s and owned by the British Museum since 1866."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," said James Horn, vice president of research and historical interpretation at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and author of a 2010 book about the Lost Colony.
Attached to the map are two patches. One patch appears to merely correct a mistake on the map, but the other — in what is modern-day Bertie County in northeastern North Carolina — hides what appears to be a fort. Another symbol, appearing to be the very faint image of a different kind of fort, is drawn on top of the patch. The American and British scholars believe the fort symbol could indicate where the settlers went.
Here is a little background on the story of The Lost Colony for those of you who are unaware. John White made the map and other drawings when he traveled to Roanoke Island in 1585 on an expedition commanded by Sir Ralph Lane. In 1587, a second colony of 116 English settlers landed on Roanoke Island, led by White. He left the island for England for more supplies but couldn't return again until 1590 because of the war between England and Spain.
When he came back, the colony was gone. White knew the majority had planned to move "50 miles into the maine," as he wrote, referring to the mainland. The only clue he found about the fate of the other two dozen was the word "CROATOAN" carved into a post, leading historians to believe they moved south to live with American Indians on what's now Hatteras Island.
Researchers don't know why someone covered the symbol with a patch, although Horn said the two drawings could indicate the settlers planned to build more of a settlement than just a fort.
The land where archaeologists would need to dig eventually is privately owned, and some of it could be under a golf course and residential community. So excavating won't begin anytime soon. But it doesn't have to, said Nicholas Luccketti, a professional archaeologist in Virginia and North Carolina for more than 35 years.
The next step, he said, will be to analyze the general area to help determine where to focus preliminary archaeological testing. Word of the discovery is just starting to seep out in Bertie, and when foundation members broke the news to the landowners, they were both excited and cautious about what it could mean.