Albemarle Sound Erosion Poses Risks to Potential Lost Colony Artifacts

Sections of the west bank of Albemarle Sound are undergoing heavy erosion, including the location of First Colony Foundation’s Site Y on the bluff at the Bertie County Beach Facility. John Whitehurst, the county’s liaison with the First Colony Foundation (FCF), estimates that as much as five feet of land dropped off the cliff in last year alone.

Salvaging Roanoke Colony Period Artifacts

Coastal erosion poses risks to valuable artifacts and information linking the Lost Colony to Site Y.  To salvage what information could be saved from future erosion, FCF planned to examine in 2021 a 200’ by 25’ area along the edge of the bluff. Its first phase focused on an area where Roanoke Colony Period artifacts had been located.

The project ran from May 17 to June 8, with 37 new 5’ squares excavated. Professional archaeologists Clay Swindell and Tony Smith supervised the team of volunteers. The finds are now being processed and studied for identification.

The Volunteers Doing the Digging

Among the volunteers were Kevin Daughtery and Rod Martin from Edenton, Joe Huff and Tom Stroud from Cashie River Center, Bill and Chris Barber from Roper, Kevin Briggs and Kim Ringeisen from Edenton, and Paul Carson and Wayne Edwards from Virginia.

They were joined by Mel Covey of Hatteras and the stalwart Madison Philips of Edenton. FCF associate, Martha Williams, of Hertford, was another team member, while Robby Outland of Rich Square gained valuable field experience before staring starting graduate studies at the University of Maryland. (Apologies to anyone inadvertently omitted.)

Volunteers with the First Colony Foundation digging Site Y in Bertie County for Roanoke Colony Period artifacts at risk to erosion.
Bertie County’s Site Y, with the Chowan River bridge in the background. Standing in the foreground are Madison Philips (l) and Clay Swindell (r), with John Whitehurst visiting.
David Weil and a First Colony Foundation volunteer panning for artifacts at Site Y in Bertie County, NC.
Long time FCF supporter David Weil visits the site and ends up collecting artifacts in the screen.