Becoming the Lost Colony

The History, Lore and Popular Culture of the Roanoke Mystery


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About the Book

Headlines declare after each new hint of evidence that the Lost Colony—the English colonists left on Roanoke Island in 1587, including Virginia Dare—has been found. None of these claims pass muster as the historical, archaeological, and literary evidence presented here demonstrate.
This book analayzes several hypotheses and demonstrates why none have been shown to be more probable than any of the others. To understand how the 1587 colonists became The Lost Colony, the authors recount the history of the English expeditions in the 1580s and the original searches for the colonists from 1590 until the 1620s. The archaeological evidence gathered from the 19th through the 21st centuries is presented. The book then examines how the disappearance of the colonists has been portrayed in pseudoscience, fiction, and popular culture from the beginnings until the present day. In the end, readers will have all the data they need to judge new claims concerning the fate of The Lost Colony..

About the Author(s)

Charles R. Ewen is Harriot College Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. He is an archaeologist whose research has focused on the early Contact/Colonial Period, the archaeology of piracy and cemetery studies. He has written or edited 10 books.

E. Thomson Shields, Jr. is emeritus in the English Department at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. His research has focused on American exploration and frontier literature.

Bibliographic Details

Charles R. Ewen and E. Thomson Shields, Jr.
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 220
Bibliographic Info: 8 photos, appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2024
pISBN: 978-1-4766-9496-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-5245-0
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
List of Figures ix
Introduction: What Was the Lost Colony? 1
Part I—What We Know
The Background History: What Do We Know   and How Do We Know It? 9
The Adventure Begins (1584)  10
First Colonization Attempt (1585–1586)  14
Second Colonization Attempt (1587–1590)  20
Looking for the Lost Colony (1600– )  27
First Retellings: The Roanoke Colonies in Print   to the Early Seventeenth Century 32
Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations (1589 and 1598–1600)  33
The Roanoke Colonies in Print, 1590–1606  38
Early Jamestown Writings and the Roanoke Colonists (1606–1610)  43
Smith, Strachey, and Purchas (1612–1626)  48
3. The Archaeology of the Lost Colony 60
Early Searches  60
National Park Service  66
Virginia Company Foundation  72
First Colony Foundation  73
Site X  74
Archaeology of Hatteras Island  75
Part II—What We Think We Know
4. From Histories to Stories: Becoming The Lost Colony 85
“Starved or Killed by Indians”: Seventeenth-, Eighteenth–and Early ­Nineteenth-Century Histories  86
The Early ­Nineteenth Century: A Growing Sense of Mystery  94
Virginia Dare and Becoming The Lost Colony  96
From the 1850s to the Present  105
5. The Prevailing Hypotheses 111
The Scenarios  111
Epilogue  144
6. Fringe “Theories”: How Far Can We Go? 145
Conclusion: What We Don’t Know and How We Don’t   Know It 161
Appendix: The Players: Major Figures in the Roanoke Colonization Ventures and Early Searches for the 1587 Colonists 175
Chapter Notes 179
Bibliography 187
Index 201