Abstract: A Truly Cold Case: The Search for North Carolina’s Lost Colonists


The fate of the sixteenth-century Lost Colony is one of the most compelling mysteries in early American history.  Conjecture as to what became of them began when their former governor, John White, returned in 1590 to find the colony deserted and only the word “Croatoan” carved on a post of the fort’s palisade.  In the ensuing 430 years explorers, scholars, novelists and a host of conspiracy theorists have offered their ideas as to what happened to the 180 colonists.  I will discuss several of the ideas for their fate and provide a framework for testing these theories involving the known history & archaeology.  This will allow the audience to see for themselves what the various theories have to offer.  I will also discuss why this mystery continues to capture the imagination of the scholarly and popular audience alike and what the importance of the site would be should it ever be found.

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