Roanoke Island Archaeological Find Goes on Exhibition at Fort Raleigh

A copper necklace, uncovered in May 2008 by First Colony Foundation archaeologists working under an agreement with the National Park Service, will be placed on exhibition at the Lindsay Warren Visitor Center at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site near Manteo, North Carolina.

The archaeologists found the necklace lain just as it had been left there by someone in the 16th or 17th centuries. The 13 diamond-shaped plates are made of copper from continental Europe and were strung together on short, knotted cords, which have now rotted away. There is evidence that the necklace was contained in a leather pouch when it was hidden, lost, or discarded.

English explorers and colonists carried copper to trade with Indians in coastal North Carolina and Virginia. For these Indian groups the metal was highly prized and represented high status. This necklace may have belonged to a Roanoke Indian who had acquired it through trade.
Thomas Hariot, the Elizabethan scientist of the first English colony at Roanoke Island from 1585-1586, later advised Samuel Mace, a sea captain in the employ of Sir Walter Raleigh, to bring square and round pieces of copper on his 1602 voyage of trade and search for survivors from the 1587 “Lost Colony.”

The copper necklace is a part of the museum collection of the National Park Service. The exhibition case is being loaned by the Museum of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City, NC, which is also providing the interpretive labeling.

First Colony Foundation archaeologists hope to resume excavations at the site this fall to investigate what additional features and artifacts may remain undiscovered in the vicinity of the necklace discovery.

The First Colony Foundation is a not for profit organization incorporated in North Carolina and established for the purpose of sponsoring archaeological research, historical research, and public education relating to the early period of American colonial history, and specifically to the colonies attempted on Roanoke Island under a charter from Queen Elizabeth I and Sir Walter Raleigh.


Phil Evans
First Colony Foundation