The English colonists who came to what became known as the "Lost Colony" never actually disappeared, according to a new book.
Rather, they went to live with their native friends, the Croatoans of Hatteras, The Virginian-Pilot reports.
"They were never lost," said author Scott Dawson, who has researched records and dug up artifacts where the colonists lived with the Indians in the 16th century. "It was made up. The mystery is over."
Dawson's book, "The Lost Colony and Hatteras Island," which was published in June, highlights his research.
Dawson and his wife, Maggie, created the Croatoan Archaeological Society when a team of archaeologists, historians, botanists, geologists, and others began conducting digs on small plots in Buxton and Frisco, situated on North Carolina's Outer Banks.
The digs have been taking place for 11 years. They are led by Mark Horton, a professor and archaeologist from England's University of Bristol.
The teams have found thousands of artifacts located 4-6 feet below the surface that show a mix of English and Indian life. Parts of swords and guns are in the same layer of soil as Indian pottery and arrowheads.
Some pieces found during the project are on display at the Hatteras Library.
According to evidence, the colony left Roanoke Island with the Croatoans to settle on Hatteras Island together. The two cultures adapted English earrings into fishhooks and gun barrels into sharp-ended tubes to tap tar from trees.
The "Lost Colony" theory comes from a 1587 expedition, according to the newspaper. A few weeks after arriving, John White had to return to England for supplies. He left behind his daughter and granddaughter. When he returned to Roanoke Island three years later in 1590, he found "CROATOAN" carved on a post and "cro" on a tree. He found no distress marks.
Dawson said the colonists went with the Croatoans and tribe member Manteo. Manteo had traveled to England with earlier expeditions and was baptized a Christian on Roanoke Island.
White later wrote of finding the writing on the post, "I greatly joyed that I had found a certain token of their being at Croatoan where Manteo was born ...."
But White never reached Hatteras due to a storm and mutiny. He went back to England and never saw his colony again.
"You're robbing an entire nation of people of their history by pretending Croatoan is a mystery on a tree," Dawson said. "These were a people that mattered a lot."
During digs, archaeologists found a flower-shaped clothing clasp belonging to a woman. Sir Walter Raleigh sent three expeditions to the New World in 1584, 1585, and in 1587. The first two had more military purposes and did not include women. The 1587 group brought 16 women with it, Dawson said.
The digs also uncovered round post holes where Indians built their long houses 25 feet to 60 feet long and they uncovered square post holes made by English during the same period.
"They were in the Indian village surrounded by long houses," Dawson said.
Bones of turtle, wildfowl and deer bones indicate good eating. Pigs teeth turn up for generations.
"They never had to eat the last pig," Dawson said.
According to Dawson, he thinks the Croatoans saved the colonists by moving them to Hatteras Island.
He said the Secotans and the Croatoans hated each other and an Englishman shot the chief of the Secotans twice in the back in 1586 near what is now the Manns Harbor.
The Croatoans assisted the English in the ambush, Dawson said.
A lead tablet and pencil found at the dig shows an impression of an Englishman shooting a native in the back.
Secotans enslaved Croatoans a few years before the English arrived. The English had burned a Secotan village in 1585.
White's colony welcomed their friendship, especially after one of their members, George Howe, was killed by the Secotans, the newspaper reports.
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