Lost Colony: Archaeologists slate busy 2024 dig season – OBX Today

Elizabethan Gardens. [Courtesy outerbanks.org]

MANTEO, N.C., Feb. 28, 2024 – Archaeologists with First Colony Foundation will begin a new dig at Roanoke Island’s Elizabethan Gardens next week, looking for more evidence of the Algonquian village of Roanoac that hosted Sir Walter Raleigh’s explorers in 1584. The weeklong dig, starting Monday, March 4, is the first of two excavations the foundation has slated, with another set for Fort Raleigh later in the spring.

The upcoming Elizabethan Gardens dig builds on tantalizing finds uncovered last summer, when the First Colony Foundation team uncovered sherds of Algonquian pottery dating to that time – an interesting find, by itself — but the most intriguing discovery was a ring of copper wire. About the size of a quarter, the loop could have been an earring that once adorned a Native American warrior.

“Finding domestic pottery – the type used for cooking – in close proximity to an apparent piece of Native American jewelry, strongly confirms that we are digging in the midst of a settlement,” says Eric Klingelhofer, the First Colony Foundation’s Vice President for Research. “And Roanoac is the only known village at that site.”

            The ring, in particular, supports that view. Made of drawn copper, the wire was almost certainly brought to America by English explorers as part of their trade goods. Local natives did not have the technology to produce such rounded strands. And neither the French nor the Spanish ventured as far north as Roanoke Island to trade.

For Native Americans, copper had an almost spiritual significance. They prized the metal the way the English valued gold and silver. For example, tribal chiefs would honor brave warriors with trinkets made of beaten copper, indicating the value native peoples placed on it.

FIND OUT MORE: First Colony Foundation, formed in April 2003, is dedicated to conducting archaeological and historical research, combined with public education and interpretation, relating to the story of America’s beginnings with the attempts by Sir Walter Raleigh to establish English colonies at Roanoke Island in the 1580s under his charter from Queen Elizabeth I. For more information, visit firstcolonyfoundation.org