Its not a map of buried treasure its treasure buried in a map.
Scholars say a new look beneath the surface of an old but remarkably accurate map of the coastal area from Cape Lookout, N.C., to Cape Henry, Va., may show where the 115 or so members of the Lost Colony sought to relocate after abandoning a site on Roanoke Island in 1587.
If so, a mysterious disappearance more than four centuries old an event central to North Carolinas early history and depicted in Paul Greens outdoor drama The Lost Colony may be closer to resolution.
In any event, says the British Museum, which collaborated with American scholars in the newly announced discovery of a clue found in the 425-year-old Virginea Pars map, the find is unique and of the first importance. The map, drawn by artist and colony leader John White, has been with the museum in London since 1866.
Not bad for the Durham-based group of scholars and researchers known as the First Colony Foundation, who were instrumental in pushing the discovery that was announced officially earlier this month at UNC-Chapel Hills Wilson Library.
What did they and the British Museum uncover?
The map, in common with others of its day, was updated and edited by means of small paper patches that cover previously drawn parts of the image. Scholars noticed two such patches in the Virginea Pars map, which they have now peered beneath using modern technology. One patch merely corrects the outline of the coast, but the other obscures an earlier underlying image a symbol designating a major fortification.
That symbol lie in a logical spot for the Lost Colonists to have headed for, a piece of land jutting into the western end of the Albemarle Sound, across the mouth of the Chowan River from Edenton. The site appears defensible from attack and has ready access to the sound and the river.
It is also about the right distance from Roanoke Island to fit with John Whites comment that after he sailed back to England in 1587 to get help for his fellow colonists, they were prepared to remove from Roanoak 50 miles into the maine [mainland]. Among the group was Whites newly born granddaughter, Virginia Dare, commonly accepted as the first English child to be born in America.
They were never found, and speculation was that they had moved to Croatoan, or Hatteras Island in the opposite direction from the newfound fort symbol.
Recent scholarship has suggested a journey inland, which the new look at the old map helps to corroborate. Some artifacts of early colonial life have been found at the Albemarle Sound site (in Bertie County), and now there should be new efforts to turn up traces, if any exist, of these bold pioneers whose courage in undertaking to live with so few comforts in the land that we call home merits admiration and renewed attention. The reason for the patch over the fort symbol is uncertain, but the sign itself is a tool with which to dig more deeply into history.