PBS’ Time Team America to Debut July 8 with Dig on Roanoke Island

Premiered on PBS stations Wednesday, July 8, 2009 at 8/7 central

From the PBS Pressroom:
TIME TEAM AMERICA goes in search of our nation’s mysterious roots at Roanoke Island. In 1586 the English sent the first group of hardy, hopeful colonists to make a go of it in the New World. But when English ships returned with supplies just three years later, they found the settlement empty and colonists gone. The colonists had left behind only one clue: the word Croatoan carved in the gatepost of their fort. It took 20 years for the stunned English to establish another settlement in America. The fate of the Roanoke colonists remains one of the most chilling and maddening questions of American history. TIME TEAM AMERICA spends three days at Fort Raleigh in hot pursuit of archaeological evidence that will put the ghost of Roanoke to rest and establish where the first colony in America was actually located.

Fascinating Site Facts:
Excavations at Fort Raleigh in 1991 unearthed the remains of a science center where archaeologists believe the first colonists were testing various metal ores. However, that dig didn’t turn up any domestic artifacts that would indicate the location of the first colonists’ homes.
The Roanoke colonists sent their leader, John White, back to England for supplies. Before White left, the settlers had agreed to leave a sign if they decided to move their camp, and they would use the mark of a cross if they were in danger. When White returned to the deserted colony he found the word Croatoan carved onto a post, but no cross. He was unable to stay to search for the colonists, among whom were his daughter and grandchild.

Although the tale of the lost colonists is an iconic story of our country’s beginnings, only about eight weeks of archaeological fieldwork have been conducted at Fort Raleigh in the past decade.

Archaeology isn’t just performed with trowels and paintbrushes. At Fort Raleigh, Time Team America brought in a precision backhoe driver to clear away layers of deposited sand on top of the 16th century soil layer. Experienced backhoe drivers can remove less than an inch of soil at a time. On the Fort Raleigh shoot the team’s backhoe driver entertained the production crew by picking up coins and peeling a banana with an earthmover.

Archaeology isn’t just about finding artifacts. Subtle differences in the color and texture of the soil can provide a great deal of information, such as the location of decayed wooden support posts from centuries-old structures.


Phil Evans
First Colony Foundation