Roanoke Symposium Success

Lost Colony History SymposiumFirst Colony Foundation, in partnership with the local historical and theatrical group, Elizabeth R & Company, held a symposium in Manteo, October 27-28, to present recent research on the Roanoke colonies and mount an exhibit of Renaissance artifacts, Elizabethan costumes, and locally produced reproductions. This event was the first of three planned annual OBX History Weekends, with 2018 focusing on Sir Walter Raleigh and 2019 centered on First Contact between English and the Indian Nations. The symposium and exhibit were supported by Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Roanoke Island Visitors Center, The Outer Banks History Center, and the Dare County Arts Council, with funding from the Outer Banks Community Foundation, the Dare County Tourism Board, and local businesses and private individuals. The schedule of speakers and events has already appeared on FCF website. Alastair Macdonald took the following photographs:

First Colony Foundation Symposium on Lost Colony Site X
The well-attended symposium at the Fish & Wildlife Visitors Center was recorded for a video funded by the City of Manteo.

After formal greetings and the video of a simulated airplane tour from Roanoke to Site X in Bertie County, the first morning of the symposium heard presentations on a variety of research subjects: Brent Lane on financial backing for the Roanoke ventures, Guy Prentice on 16th-century survivors’ sites, Bly Straube on objects that early colonists brought with them, and Gabriel Rocha on the background and motives of the pilot, Simon Fernandez. The afternoon was focused on John White’s Virginea Pars map, with Peter Armstrong speaking for Peter Barber on Tudor cartography, Kim Sloan on how hidden symbols showed Elizabethan interest in Bertie County, and Eric Klingelhofer on details and changes in White’s picture maps provide new information on the voyages.

First Colony Foundation archaeologists
FCF archaeologist Eric Deetz with his UNC student, Mathew Balance, with shovel.

The lunch break on both days gave attendees an opportunity to view a 2016 UNCTV video on FCF’s work at Site X and to tour past archaeological sites at Fort Raleigh – plus a visit to Eric Deetz’s ongoing re-excavation of Thomas Harriot’s scientific workshop and a view of the artifacts just unearthed there.

Lost Colony Site X Presentation
Nick Luccketti and Site X at Mettaquem in modern Bertie County.

The second morning Nick Luccketti presented what many had especially come to hear: FCF’s analysis of the mysterious Site X.

Dating Tobacco Pipes Presentation at Lost Colony Site X
The dating of tobacco pipes Site X differs from that at early 17th-century sites.

The Site X presentation was followed by two talks on the Algonquian people, the Indians that Governor Lane met, Clay Swindell spoke on the local pottery “that John White drew,” and Randy Turner described the search for evidence of the Chesapeake tribe that the English exploratory party lived with in the winter of 1586.

Algonquian Longhouse excavation in Virginia Beach
Randy Turner’s excavation of an Algonquian longhouse in Virginia Beach.

The second afternoon session examined the context of Algonquian and colonist relations. Karen Kupperman spoke on Native-American knowledge in Thomas Harriot’s writings, and Jim Horn addressed the question of “Why they [Lost Colonists] went West.” This was followed by Phil Evans, who assessed the problem of fakes and fables, such as the Dare Stones and the legend of the White Doe.

Lost Colony Myths Presentation
Phil Evans repudiates myths and dubious relics.

Symposium speakers were accommodated in luxury beach cottages provided by local donors, with meals provided at local OBX restaurants. They were treated on Friday to a narrated sunset boat tour of Roanoke Island, funded by North Carolina Coastal Fund, which has purchased Site X and the Mettaquem village, preserving them for future generations of Carolinians.

Manteo symposium on the Lost Colony lunch break
Lunchtime camaraderie at Poor Richard’s. From left: Karen Kupperman, Bly Straube, Kim Sloan, and Jeanne Marie Warzeski of the NC Museum of History, who helped with the 2007 exhibit of John White’s drawings. The skeletons had not been invited to the symposium.

Speakers were then given time to view the exhibit at the Old Court House, now the Dare County Arts Council facility. They were welcomed with a taste of Harriot Ale, brewed especially by Lost Colony Brewery using the 1586 ingredients.

Elizabethan Dress Exhibit Manteo NC
A regal Barbara Hird of Elizabeth R & Co as Queen Elizabeth I, greets visitors to an exhibit of theatrical Elizabethan dress.

They saw museum objects from Renaissance Europe, archaeological finds from Fort Raleigh and Site X, rich costumes from Elizabethan England and Algonquian Carolina, and colonial and Indian artifacts reproduced by local artisans.

reproduction baskets, jewelry and bowls from Site X Roanoke colony
Reproduction woven tray and basket, wooden bowls, and copper jewelry.

The weekend was enjoyed by all participants, and the organizers are grateful to the donors and volunteers. Kim Sloan from London wrote, “to top it all, the audience was attentive and well-informed and I learnt something new from every paper. I have never been to such a successful symposium and enjoyed myself so much. You fulfilled your Foundation’s purpose, to conduct research with public lnformation and education, brilliantly.”

Book signing at the Lost Colony Symposium in Manteo NC
John Whitehurst and Billy Smithwick of Bertie County brought books for signing.

Some attendees were especially delighted with the symposium. Bertie County civic leaders saw a future for heritage tourism in the relevations about Site X, Mettaquem, and the Lost Colonists.

This news was expressed in the symposium’s conclusion:


28 October 2017
At the location on Salmon Creek in Bertie County, NC, which First Colony Foundation archaeologists labeled Site X, our test excavations from 2012 to 2017 have unearthed artifacts in sufficient numbers to identify its spatial, temporal, and cultural characteristics.
The locality lies on the edge of a large, fifty-acre zone where sites were repeatedly occupied in the prehistoric period. The latest site there can be firmly identified as the sixteenth-century town of Mettaquem noted by Governor Ralph Lane in his 1586 exploration of the Chowan River and labeled as such in Theodore de Bry’s 1590 map of Virginia. Site X itself comprises a quarter-acre spread of late Tudor pottery sherds and several metal objects of similar attribution, along with much contemporary Late Woodland Algonquian ceramics.
Mettaquem and the other settlements west of the Chowan River were abandoned by the second quarter of the seventeenth century. There is nothing to indicate a European presence on the upper Albemarle Sound in the first half of the seventeenth century. Site X was a landing on Salmon Creek for the later Bal Gra plantation, and it seems to have served the same role when Governor Pollock owned the land in the late 1600s. Yet the site had been known to Sir Walter Raleigh’s colonists a hundred years before, as evidenced by their intention to settle “fifty miles into the Main[land]” and by the corresponding symbol hidden on John White’s Virginea Pars map.
We conclude that the finds from Site X indicate the presence there of a small party of Elizabethan colonists, probably less than a dozen, with domestic wares indicating their civilian status. Weapon parts, however, lead us to surmise that they were not captives, but rather lived as guests valued for knowledge and skills that Native Americans lacked. Jamestown authorities later heard of villages in this region where several white people survived into the early seventeenth century. At Mettaquem, as at the other places, these English can only have been members of Raleigh’s Lost Colony that had disappeared by 1590. How and why some colonists survived and others did not remain unanswered questions, but First Colony Foundation will now expand its search for evidence of other Elizabethans on Salmon Creek and in the Algonquian towns along the Chowan River.