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INFO VINE * The History of The Mysterious Roanoke Island *

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Post by Paul Wed 31 Jan 2024, 8:04 am

The History of The Mysterious Roanoke Island

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Photo Courtesy: [Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group/Getty Images]
The Lost Colony lingers in the back of every historian's mind, and it is a bundle of unsolved mysteries. The search for the colonists lost popularity as a lack of clues led to no leads. After the peak of the Age of Discovery, continental powers like England and Spain were leading explorations to foreign lands. People became obsessed with mapping out new land and using its resources to build colonies, despite the land being used by the Native Americans. 

The history of the mysterious Roanoke (originally spelled Roanoac) Island is one of the world's most dead-end cases, and many spooky and puzzling findings surround this event in American and world history. The history of the island also coincides with the Anglo-Spanish War (1585–1604), which is when there was a conflict between England and Spain. There are many people responsible for the events that took place in Roanoke, and there are numerous theories that have been developed throughout the centuries as to what happened to the Lost Colony on Roanoke Island. 

The Island's Importance In American History 

Pictured below is an illustration of a Native American, created by John White. John was a talented artist, traveler, and Governor of a Roanoke colony. When John White and hundreds of other colonists had arrived on Roanoke Island, there had already been deeply rooted communities of Native Americans that lived abundantly on the land. Generally, there were always disputes amongst the colonists and natives, so the island is a key factor in studying how English colonists overtook this land off the coast of North Carolina to create their own culture. 

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Photo Courtesy: [Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group/Getty Images]

Once the English colonists were successful in establishing a small settlement in this area after three tries, a mystery unfolded. The colony under John White disappeared without a trace. This has brought people together throughout American history to try and unravel the possible horrors or blunders that may have occurred in the late 16th century. 

Queen Elizabeth I Issued A Charter

On March 25th, 1584, the Queen of England and Ireland, Queen Elizabeth I, issued a charter that allowed Sir Walter Raleigh to conquer the land that is Roanoke. The Queen wanted him and her people to reap the riches of the land, tame it, and utilize it. She wanted Sir Walter to explore the land and take it from Native Americans for their enjoyment. 

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Photo Courtesy: [Imagno/Hulton Fine Art Collection/Getty Images]

The Queen issuing this charter changed North American history forever because it showed that a world power was showing interest in colonizing the New World, somewhere very few people have explored. The Roanoke expeditions were the first rapid efforts to form settlements on land not yet claimed by an English Monarch and that was coursing with Native American populations. 

Sir Humphrey Gilbert

Sir Humphrey Gilbert was raised into the profession of colonization, for much of his family were explorers and navigators. Sir Humphrey is important to the history of Roanoke because he was originally supposed to be the one organizing and leading the Roanoke expeditions. He also had a half-brother that he influenced into being a colonizer, Sir Walter Raleigh. 

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Photo Courtesy: [CORBIS/Corbis/Getty Images]

Sir Humphrey is the one who originally planned the Roanoke expeditions, but the charter went to Sir Walter when his half-brother drowned while attempting to colonize St. John's Newfoundland. So, the fate of the Lost Colony was passed through family before the colonists' destinies were sealed into the mystery that they came to be. 

Sir Walter Raleigh

Sir Walter Raleigh was born in the UK in 1522. He was a man of many talents such as being a poet, writer, spy, soldier, and explorer. He was an image of a renaissance man, and his family was involved in a myriad of traveling expeditions. Although in Sir Walter's case, he never actually went on the expeditions that he funded and conducted - he often appointed a Governor and gathered groups of colonists and shipped them out with a mission in mind. 

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Photo Courtesy: [CORBIS/Corbis/Getty Images]

Raleigh oversaw the Roanoke expeditions from sending out explorers to scope out the land to then funding two more expeditions which consisted of about 100 colonists each time. Sir Walter did not judge the situations well though, because the colonists were never sent out with enough food and supplies, often leading to the colonies' demise. 

There Were Three Expeditions To Roanoke 

When historians and spooky story lovers think of the Lost Colony, they may not know that over three groups of people were sent out to this island in the late 1500s. First, Sir Walter got permission from Queen Elizabeth I to go and discover the land that was unseen by colonization's eye. Those two explorers came back with a good report of useful land. 

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Photo Courtesy: [Hulton Archive/Archive Photos/Getty Images]

Each time the colonists met the Native Americans on Roanoke Island, they did not get along well. Generally, the local tribes were friendly, but after so many instances of colonists disrespecting them, they eventually began to chase any white men off for the sake of them keeping their way of life and the land they had always lived on and taken care of. The last Roanoke expedition was the one we more commonly know of, the Lost Colony, which may have had life-altering interactions with the locals.

Philip Amadas And Arthur Barlowe

Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe were the ones sent out on the first known colonization of Roanoke Island, for they were sent out by the Queen to see if this "unclaimed land" was suitable for English colonization. Philip was born into a wealthy family and grew up in England and became known as a naval commander. 

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Photo Courtesy: [Icas94/De Agostini Picture Library/Getty Images]

Arthur was a British captain who left with Philip for Roanoke Island in 1584 under the command of Sir Walter Raleigh. Philip and Arthur's accounts are told from a surviving journal written by Arthur, addressed to Sir Walter. For the journey, two ships sailed out and were led by a Portuguese navigator, and after 3 months, the explorers arrived and met the Algonquian Indians. They came across the villages of Wingandacoa and Roanoke on their travels and greedily loved the land. Instantly the colonists began to trade with them for a couple of weeks and ended up taking Manteo (Croatoan native) and Wanchese (Roanoke native) back to England. 

The Geography Of Roanoke Island

The geography of Roanoke Island and for any historical event is tricky because land barriers and disputes have shaped any land tremendously over the last few centuries. The island that the colonists wanted to inhabit was located on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. North of this island is Albemarle Sound, an estuary, and south is Hatteras Island. 

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Photo Courtesy: [The Print Collector/Heritage Images/Getty Images]

East of the settlements was the Atlantic Ocean, and all around the island were numerous native tribes that occupied the land centuries before English colonists. There were many diverse Native American tribes, most of which at first befriended colonists, and some tribes in the area did not get along too well. The land is a coastal forest area that has astounding nature (as illustrated above), with a diverse amount of plants including oak trees. 

Ships Separated In 1585

Pictured below is a recreation of a type of ship that Sir Richard used to sail to what is now the outer banks of North Carolina, Roanoke Island in Dare County. The ship was Elizabeth II, and generally, the communities there take pride in the English colonization efforts centuries ago. When Sir Richard made this expedition in 1585, his crew faced a hiccup in their plans. 

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Photo Courtesy: [Dukas/Universal Images Group/Getty Images]

A few of Sir Richard's ships got caught up in storms and their pathways split up, but ships were able to get back on course and arrive on Roanoke. Without the successful landing of the supplies and people, the British Crown would not have been able to colonize this area as rapidly, so Sir Richard was considered lucky. 

A Trip To Roanoke 

In 1585, a year after Arthur and Philip had explored parts of North Carolina, the Queen would not allow Sir Walter to make an expedition to Roanoke himself, but she allowed his cousin, Sir Richard Grenville, to pursue the journey. Throughout his lifetime, Sir Richard was a student, soldier, sheriff, and eventually explorer. 

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Photo Courtesy: [Fotosearch/Archive Photos/Getty Images]

His seven ships arrived on the island in two months and met Secotan, Aquascogoc, and Pomeiooc tribes while exploring the land. In two months, by the end of August 1585, Sir Richard had developed a colony of 107 people and had developed somewhat of a relationship with the Native Americans. 

The Role Of The Village Of Aquascogoc

Illustrated below is a dance from the Aquascogoc tribe, created by John White. Sir Richard and those who came with him came across this tribe amongst others while looking for a place to settle. While building his colony, a particular interaction with the Aquascogoc natives altered the fate of this tribe and English colonization.

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Photo Courtesy: [Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group/Getty Images]

People of this village were accused of stealing a silver cup, and so as a result, Sir Richard, unfortunately, felt the need to 'punish' them and he burnt their village to the ground. Due to this, the English were able to more rapidly form their colony, and at the end of August in 1585, Sir Richard left 107 people and said he would return in about eight months. 

A Year Later, Sir Francis Drake Took The First Settlers Back 

When Sir Richard first wanted an expedition, the Queen denied him one and gave it to Sir Francis Drake (pictured below) instead; this led Sir Richard to pursue his cousin Sir Walter Raleigh to receive the first Roanoke journey to colonize. When Sir Richard left at the end of August in 1585, he was on his way to England to get supplies for his colony in Roanoke, but he stopped to assist his cousin (Sir Walter) with colonization efforts in Ireland.

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Photo Courtesy: [Stock Montage/Archive Photos/Getty Images]

Sir Richard was behind schedule and did not return with Roanoke's supplies until after April 1586, so when Sir Francis stopped by the colony and offered to pick up the colonists, most of them hitched a ride back home. Most of the colonies were low on supplies including food and had had disputes with Native Americans. Sir Richard eventually made it back to the colony after Sir Francis picked people up, found it abandoned because of this, and decided to drop a few people off that he had with him. After leaving a small colony behind, Sir Richard returned back to England. 

The Lost Colony Settles On The Island 

Illustrated below is another piece of art created by John White when he came across Native Americans on Roanoke Island. In 1587, shortly after Sir Richard returned back to England, John White led a little over 100 people to Roanoke Island to form a thriving colony. Although John and his colonists had back luck from the start for when they arrived, the men Sir Richard had left were dead.

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Photo Courtesy: [Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group/Getty Images]

Things did not go well for John White in 1587, for there was always a lack of supplies and environmental barriers that hindered the success of the colony. John set out that same year to return to England for supplies but little did he or the people know that his trip back would be delayed by three years!

The Native Tribes

It is important to note the complex Native American history that the mysterious Roanoke Island has, and that much of that history is only told through the English's point of view. The reason for this is because most Native American history is passed down orally or in art, much of which has been destroyed. 

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Photo Courtesy: [Culture Club/Hulton Archive/Getty Images]

Despite this, the illustrations of Natives and maps that John White and other artists created can still be helpful in piecing together the history. John White felt it was inevitable that colonists and Native Americans must coexist in order to live peacefully, yet disputes with natives were very frequent and sometimes violent. The Lost Colony had defended and coexisted with the Croatoans, who were the rivals of the Secotans.

The Story Of George Howe

Albemarle Sound is an estuary near Roanoke island that is a piece of land that combines river environments and maritime environments. A part of Albemarle Sound is pictured below, but it would have looked vastly different many centuries ago. At the time of the Lost Colony, George Howe was killed here.

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Photo Courtesy: [Raleigh News & Observer/Tribune News Service/Getty Images]

George was fishing for crabs in this area when a Native American came along and murdered him. Instances like this were not rare at this point in history because of the feelings natives had towards the English and the military force that the English colonists had possessed. It is without a doubt that there are various documentations of violent disputes between natives and colonists in Roanoke's history. 

The Birth Of Virginia Dare

Roanoke Island is iconic for hosting the birth of Virginia Dare, the first child who was born completely of English descent on the land. Virginia was John White's granddaughter, and illustrated below is her religious baptism. She was the second person baptized in America, and her birth still has a large cultural impact on the land today. 

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Photo Courtesy: [Hulton Archive/Hulton Archive/Getty Images]

There are many streets, buildings, and projects named after Virginia because of her significance in the New World's history. Unless she survived by assimilating into a Native American culture, Virginia did not live past the age of four. The mystery of what happened on Roanoke Island and the birth of this English child had combined to make many American folklores; some say that a jealous Native American turned her into a white doe and that if one is to see a white doe on the island, it is her. 

The Lord Of Roanoke

Native American tribes are very complex and historians have worked hard to piece them together with the best of their knowledge for centuries. As far as the Lord of Roanoke, he was the first person to be baptized by the English in the Americas. His name was Manteo and he had had experience with colonists before. 

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Photo Courtesy: [CORBIS/Corbis/Getty Images]

Illustrated above is artwork (1585) done by John White in North Carolina of the Algonquian village of Pomeioc. The Lord of Roanoke was an influential member of his tribe and was part of the subtribe of the Croatoan Native Americans. This subtribe was considered a coastal Algonquian group. 

The Governor Of The Lost Colony

John White was the Governor for the Lost Colony of Roanoke from 1587-1590. John was a part of the Roanoke expeditions previous to his travels, for he assisted Sir Richard when he started a colony on the island in 1585. Mr. White is known for his excellence in art, cartography, and traveling. Without his art, we would not know much about Roanoke Island in the late 16th century. 

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Photo Courtesy: [Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group/Getty Images]

Pictured above is an illustration done by John, for he drew or painted things like wildlife, maps, Native Americans, and much more while he was in North Carolina. He seemed to have his communities' well-being in mind while he was Governor and was reluctant to leave the colonists behind when he had to go get supplies in 1587 because he was worried for them. 

A Trip For Supplies

After a few weeks on Roanoke Island, John White was forced to go back to England and get supplies, or else the colony would perish from primarily starvation. John was an explorer almost all of his life and on trips, including this one, he would draw creatures like the Red-billed Tropicbird (pictured below), or Paethon aethereus.

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Photo Courtesy: [David Tipling/Universal Images Group/Getty Images]

John had a lot of pressure on him, for the seas were turmoiled with the war between England and Spain and he had many people's lives at risk. The supplies were essential for the continuation of his English colony, for they needed seeds, livestock, fibers, and other supplies. Conflicts with Native Americans also rushed the urgency of John's supply trip in 1587. 

The Risk Of Sailing Back For Help 

The primary risk at this time for John was the war going on at seas, and the possibility of running into Spanish ships. Not to mention, navigation, weather, and naval technologies were not nearly as safe as they are today in the 21st century; running into a storm was more life-threatening and there was more of a chance of getting lost. 

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Photo Courtesy: [Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group/Getty Images]

There were still parts of Earth that were undiscovered or poorly mapped out at the time of the Roanoke expeditions, so the navigational and environmental risks were something John had to consider as an explorer. There is a theory that the Lost Colony could have sailed out on their own when John took so long to return, but the risk was high with an experienced traveler like John, let alone very low for the average colonist. 

Conflicts Between England And Spain

Pictured below is a painting of the Spanish Armada, which is the Spanish fleet that John White had to worry about running into on his trip back for supplies for his Roanoke colony. There were around 130 Armada ships that sailed out in August 1588, to escort an army that was to attack England. This fleet was under the control of the Duke of Medina Sidonia. 

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Photo Courtesy: [Photo12/Universal Images Group/Getty Images]

The two world powers were fighting over expansionism and trade, so John would be a target seeing that he was discovering and developing the New World for England. The Spanish Armada went to invade England because they were a threat to Spain's ability to control and colonize the world as they saw fit. 

The Governor Returns

In August of 1590, John finally returned to his Roanoke colony. There were numerous war and environmental delays on his trip back for supplies, and John waited in anticipation to report to the Queen. Despite it all, the explorer made it back from England three years later, ready to continue his plan of economic and agricultural growth for the colony. 

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Photo Courtesy: [Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group/Getty Images]

Pictured above is an illustration from 1760 of the southern U.S. Even though this map was made almost 200 years after the Roanoke journeys, you can see the geography of where John would return to on the northeast side of this map. There was not a plethora of art made to depict every altercation of land ownership and classification, and these boundaries have altered drastically over time, so this map illustrates John's journey well despite the time period differential. 

Mysterious Carvings

This part of Roanoke Island's history is one of the most familiar pieces of evidence. When John returned after three years with supplies, he did not suspect what he found that August in 1590. There were many mysteries John found when he stepped onto the island that day, one of them being the word Croatoan carved into a post (illustrated below). 

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Photo Courtesy: [Stock Montage/Archive Photos/Getty Images]

It is recorded that John also found the letters "Cro" carved into a tree. The Croatoans were a tribe that English Roanoke explorers had interacted with for years, and it is said that this tribe and these colonists coexisted together. There were other clues at the scene that John found, but some say that this started one of the biggest mysteries in American history. Some historians say that it is simple, and the colonists had just assimilated into that tribe and left a message for John as to what they had to do. 

The Importance Of A Maltese Cross

The Croatoan carvings were the prominent ones that John had found when he got to the colony. For long periods in history, the Maltese cross has been a symbol of protection, and people were instructed to also carve one if they were in danger. If the settlers had the chance to carve what John found, it seems they may have been able to carve this symbol if that was their true situation. 

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Photo Courtesy: [Yorgos Karahalis/Bloomberg/Getty Images]

Pictured above is a Maltese cross on a recent coin, and this symbol was most popular in the 1500s. Many factors contribute to the Roanoke mystery, because who knows if the colonists were rushed for time? Or if they truly weren't in danger at the time? This is why this cross is a great context clue when it comes to this historical story. 

All Houses Were Dismantled 

At the time of these colonies, houses were generally made of sticks, clay, mud, and other environmental materials. When John arrived on the island (illustrated below with the original spelling), apparently all the houses the colonists had built were taken down. This seems to show that the Lost Colony had time before they left, but the reason as to why they took them down is still a mystery. 

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Photo Courtesy: [National Park Service/FORT RALEIGH NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE/Getty Images]

The colonists could have planned to move and therefore wanted to take the houses down, were forced to take them down, or the weather influenced their decisions; this is yet another observation John had when he witnessed the Lost Colony. The architecture of English houses at the time was similar to the structures of the Native Americans' homes. 

The Secotans And The Croatoans

The Croatoans had inhabited considerable amounts of land in the North Carolina area, and generally, they had a good relationship with the English colonists; records of conflict are still found despite this. The two groups of people had enough of a relationship for the natives to ask the English if they would help them with a war on the Secotans and possibly others. 

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Photo Courtesy: [Stringer/Hulton Archive/Getty Images]

Many believe that due to context clues, the Lost Colony went on to coexist with the Croatoans on their land by Hatteras Island. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of solid histories on these tribes and more of their neighbors because of colonization. Most of what we know about these two tribes is told through illustrations by John White; usually, only one side of the story is solidly told. Many natives passed down their history orally, so sadly it was lost when their lives were ended and languages went unlearnt. 

No Signs Of Violence At The Scene 

John White also found no signs of violence upon his return to the colony. No bodies, blood, or remains of any violent crime were found. This clue almost rules out the possibility of the natives killing the colonists. Even though there may not have been any violence at the scene of this mystery, violence had occurred between the two groups of people before. 

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Photo Courtesy: [Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images]

One crime recorded between the English and Native Americans was the murder of John White's assistant (illustrated above). His assistant was murdered by natives during his stay on Roanoke Island. Having no evidence of violence upon John's arrival also suggests that the colonists were not murdered by Spanish Conquistadors either. 

They May Have Died From A Drought

Three years without good supplies could easily determine the fate of any colonization effort in the New World. The Lost Colony was waiting on John White's return because they were low on food and other necessities, and the weather made it hard for them to sustain themselves too. There were forests in North Carolina, and these give us clues to the mystery hundreds of years later. 

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Photo Courtesy: [Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg/Getty Images]

We know that the colonists may have struggled with North Carolina's climate because the study of trees, also known as dendrology has been developed. Plant scientists can look at parts of a tree to determine how old it is and the environmental disasters it may have gone through like fires, droughts, or floods. Trees in this area have shown signs of there being a drought between 1587-1590. 

The Colonists May Have Starved To Death

The English colonists were not familiar with the land on Roanoke Island, so it took them some time to know the ways of the land and how to have a decent yield of crops. Natives are often known to have assisted settlers and many Native American growing methods are still utilized today. Regardless, with the area being an island, it can bring unexpected weather (crop loss). 

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Photo Courtesy: [DeAgostini/DeAgostini Picture Library/Getty Images]

John was on his way to get supplies, so if the colonists were not successfully growing plants and livestock, it is likely they could have starved to death while trying to grow crops or searching for new land. The colonists also could have starved while traveling to find help from Native Americans or if they by a bizarre chance ran into another English settler outside John's colony. Although, if they starved to death, where were the bodies? 

Colonists May Have Assimilated Into A Local Tribe 

Due to the carvings that the Governor found, it is likely that the English colonists mingled and became a part of the Croatoan tribe. Maybe the tree was thicker than the gate post, so someone was able to only carve part of the word Croatoan on the tree, yet able to engrave the entirety of the word on the post. 

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Photo Courtesy: [Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group/Getty Images]

Not only are the mysterious Croatoan carvings a substantial leading clue as to what happened to the colonists, but archaeological evidence also matches this theory. By Hatteras Island, mixed materials have been found that are believed to be from the tribes and the colonists, and their possible life together. Some events do show that the English and Croatoans had an alliance, so the Lost Colony finding refuge in this possible friendship would ensure some of them a longer life. 

Colonists May Have Been Killed By Spanish Conquistadors 

It seems that since the beginning of time, parts of the world have endlessly fought and debated over colonization and expansionism; as if one main power had to explore and conquer all of the undiscovered lands. In the late 1500s, the Spanish and English were at war and in a race to collect and rule all of the lands in North America, among other places. 

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Photo Courtesy: [DE AGOSTINI PICTURE LIBRARY/De Agostini/Getty Images]

With this war going on about the New World, it is possible that the Spanish had invaded this English colony in order to show their power and take the land for themselves. This may seem unlikely since the English developed Jamestown shortly after the Lost Colony, so there was not much Spanish influence there at that time. Plus, no crime was apparent to John, so the colonists being killed by Spanish Conquistadors is not impossible due to the war, but it is debated by some historians. The Spanish could have killed them or made them dismantle the settlements and they could have taken them as captives. 

The Colonists May Have Been Murdered By Natives

Whether they dragged the bodies off or killed the colonists while they were traveling to try to survive, some historians say that John White's colony was massacred by Native Americans. This theory about Roanoke Island would only make sense if there was evidence that John just didn't see when he came to the colony that day in 1590.

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Photo Courtesy: [MPI/Archive Photos/Getty Images]

The illustration above is from around 1550 and is a depiction of a Native American at the time. These native people were on the island centuries before the English began to settle here, so it is not impossible for these tribes to want to take back their land, and sadly the only way to do this would be to murder the Lost Colony because for some reason the English could not coexist. 

The Colonists May Have Tried To Sail Back 

The colonists could have been faced with life or death since John didn't return on time; maybe they thought their best option was to set sail to a new land, and if they were lucky, their homeland of England. Ships could have been left or found near them, or by chance, they made a shabby makeshift boat to set sail on in order to try to survive. 

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Photo Courtesy: [Print Collector/Hulton Archive/Getty Images]

Illustrated above is a representation of boats that colonists would use in order to explore and dominate new lands. Though this theory is not as simple as the Croatoan theory, people for centuries have developed possible scenarios and fates that could have occurred on Roanoke Island over 400 years ago. If the colonists tried to sail back, they also could have been killed by Spanish Conquistadors. 

The Searchers Had To Leave In A Day

It is crazy to think that when John White finally returned to his colony three years after his departure, he could not even investigate the mystery of the disappearance properly. John looked around to find substantial clues (Croatoan), but he could not stay longer than a day when he arrived at Roanoke in August 1590. 

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Photo Courtesy: [Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group/Getty Images]

Pictured above is an illustration showing the arrival of John White and him investigating some of the clues he found at Roanoke. He and his crew knew that a nasty storm was brewing by the island, and many of his crew members voted to leave the island for the sake of their safety. John could not search the colony, the Hatteras Island where colonists could have been, or any surrounding area because of the oncoming storm; this is essentially why if there is a mystery on Roanoke, it has been lost in time because of the weather. It is interesting to think that John found these clues and never even came back to the island even when he had the chance. 

Finding Clues 

Unfortunately, parts of history have been poorly recorded or not documented at all, but historians do believe that John had a communication with a Native American and possibly Manteo when he arrived on the island in 1590. He had had relations with the person before, and the native told him that his colony was massacred. 

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Photo Courtesy: [The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images]

Like depicted above, massacres were not uncommon in this time period, whether the colonist or native be the aggressor. This conversation that John had is a small piece of possible events that occurred on the island that day, and his account is one of the first signs of people addressing the Roanoke story. 

The First Theory May Not Have Been True

Again, there may be many possible reasons as to why the theory of the colonists being murdered may not hold true. There were no bodies left behind - unlike when John first arrived on the island in 1587, and the colonists' homes were dismantled (which indicates they may have left willingly). As to why the conversation with the native happened with John, that is still a possible mystery as well. 

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Photo Courtesy: [Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group/Getty Images]

It is still a debate as to whether or not the history of Roanoke Island is a mystery in history or not. Some say the tree and posts carvings are enough of a clue, while others and parts of history still propose that the colonists may have been murdered by natives or the Spanish; the thrill of no concrete evidence is what has driven people to suggest what may have happened. 

Parts Of The Settlements May Be Underwater

Roanoke Island is an island surrounded by water and tides. With this, there can be extreme soil erosion from wind and water forces. Along with people cutting down trees, and tilling the ground for crops, it is highly likely that we don't see much of the land that the natives and settlers walked on back in the late 1500s. 

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Photo Courtesy: [Culture Club/Hulton Archive/Getty Images]

The colony that Sir Walter Raleigh (pictured above) oversaw was subject to extreme weather conditions and natural erosion because of the coastal environments. With this, some clues may have eroded away into the ocean, leaving a lack of evidence for those who were trying to find possible clues about Roanoke decades later. 

The Land Was Used Thousands Of Years Before The English Colonies Developed 

In 1588, Englishmen Thomas Harriot made the illustration below to represent a Native American village in the area. He was an astronomer and mathematician, and even though his art is centuries old, it is still not as old as the cultures that were on the island before English settlers came along. 

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Photo Courtesy: [Culture Club/Hulton Archive/Getty Images]

The land on Roanoke Island had been used countless centuries before England even thought of colonizing the area. Much of the land was used for fishing and thriving establishments had been developing over time, some tribes even seasonally using the lands that the colonists first came upon. Numerous colonies were agriculturally happy and satisfied as a culture long before John White. 

The Mother Vine

As far as the history of Roanoke Island, there are some interesting and mysterious botanical findings at the location. There is a grapevine that is over 400 years old and is considered the Mother Vine. These vines produce scuppernongs (a variety of grapes), which were declared the state fruit for North Carolina in 2001. 

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Photo Courtesy: [A. DAGLI ORTI/De Agostini/Getty Images]

Pictured above is a botanical illustration of Vitis rotundifolia, a plant in the area that has been cultivated and enjoyed for centuries. Therefore, plants are an essential part of our history and people have eaten from the same plant for generations. 

The People Of The Lost Colony Arrived During A Catastrophe 

As mentioned before, the colonists may have died from drought conditions, for at the time of their stay on Roanoke Island, modern technology and science predict that those people suffered one of the worst droughts in North Carolina's history. Scientists can now conclude environmental concepts like this when they look at tree rings. 

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Photo Courtesy: [Patrick Pleul/picture alliance/Getty Images]

With trees being stagnant, they can tell us a lot of information about Earth if they are alive at a location for an extended period of time. When dendrologists cut down trees (particularly a type of cypress tree) at the site of the Lost Colony, they found that between 1587-1590, there was an extensive drought in the area. Trees grow annual rings that reflect how it grows and in what conditions it is surviving, and each ring represents a year, so this is what scientists can find when they cut down or injure century-old trees. 

The Founding Of Jamestown

Roanoke Island's history directly correlates with the founding of Jamestown, because it is right over the North Carolina border and on the coast of Virginia (so North of the Lost Colony). Many lessons were learned from the Roanoke expeditions, and these lessons were what led to the success of the Jamestown colony. 

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Photo Courtesy: [Interim Archives/Archive Photos/Getty Images]

Pictured above is an illustration made in 1622 of the thriving Virginia colony of Jamestown. The colony was established in 1607, 17 years after the disappearance of the people in John White's colony; The Roanoke colonies certainly paved the way for future bustling villages like Jamestown. 

People Are Still Looking For Answers

Some people believe that the word Croatoan is evidence enough of what happened to the Lost Colony, yet people have still created theories and possible scenarios for what could have happened on that fateful day. A lot of mystery can be poked into this point in history because there is not as thorough documentation of information as there is today. 

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Photo Courtesy: [Henry Guttmann Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images]

So for those historians who believe that there is something more to Roanoke Island, they are still searching for concrete evidence to prove what really happened to the colonists and the Native Americans in the late 1500s. They search evidence such as old documents, journals, art, and conduct archaeological digs in order to piece together a puzzle. 

The Fate Of The Colonists Is Still A Mystery 

The English history of Roanoke Island all began when Sir Walter Raleigh (pictured below) and his family got involved with British exploration. He is the one who led and funded all the expeditions to the island, despite him never setting foot on the land. 

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Photo Courtesy: [Photo12/Universal Images Group/Getty Images]

Since Sir Walter's responsibility for this project, an enormous amount of history happened in that small time frame of about six years. Overall, the fate of the Roanoke colonists is still considered a mystery, which is astronomical since it happened over 400 years ago, and a lot of helpful technology has developed since then. 

Scientists Tried To Trace DNA

In 2007, a group of scientists had decided to pursue the possible Roanoke mystery by utilizing the science of DNA. The discovery of DNA and its functions is one of the most life-changing scientific discoveries made, and people that were passionate for the colony over 400 years later decided to apply the properties of DNA to the mystery. 

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Scientists tested the DNA of people who had lived on Roanoke Island their whole lives and they attempted to put together a gigantic family tree, all to see if the Lost Colony had assimilated into native tribes. Despite their efforts, not much solid research and data came out of their data collection. Some results do show the possibility of an intermingling of colonists and natives.  

There Are Many Theories About Roanoke Island 

As discussed, there are pages worth of theories surrounding the history of Roanoke Island, all of which will never be approved or disapproved because there is no indisputable evidence available and we will never know the Native Americans' full story; some theories that have been created throughout the centuries are ridiculous, while many others are quite possible. 

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Some believe that the colonists were murdered while traveling or attempting to sail away, or they could have possibly been killed at their colony; the Lost Colony could have been the victims of the Native Americans or Spanish Conquistadors. Other ideas state that the colonists could have gone through an extreme drought or starvation period as well. 

There Has Been A Lot Of Media Made About The Mystery 

Ever since the Roanoke travels in the 1500s, there has been a limitless amount of media made about the Roanoke expeditions, especially the Lost Colony. For example, even the highways publicize the historical information, let alone the mass amounts of books and documentaries that were created around this historical event. 

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Roanoke museums have sprouted up and some historians spend their entire careers studying this case. Many plays, books, and silent movies have been created about the history as well; Roanoke even makes it into modern media, for the popular horror show, American Horror Story, had a whole season based upon the Lost Colony. 

The Mystery Will Most Likely Never Be Solved

Pictured below is a memorial stone for the Lost Colony. Due to the mysterious vibe of Roanoke Island and it being deeply embedded in folklore, it is likely the Roanoke mystery will never be a closed case. People either believe that the colonists became a part of the Croatoan tribe, or there is a whole other branch to this history that stems into different theories. 

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Photo Courtesy: [Visions of America/Universal Images Group/Getty Images]

American history wouldn't be the same without this story of English exploration and the fate it had on the Native American civilizations. We are unsure if the colonist were murdered or if they went on to live a prosperous long life. 

Archaeological Findings

Pictured below is an illustration of a Native American ceremony. John White was one of the main artists of this time period, and much of our information on Roanoke comes from him. 

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Photo Courtesy: [Encyclopaedia Britannica/Universal Images Group/Getty Images]

Extensive efforts have also been made to dig six or more feet under the land that the colonists were believed to have settled on, in order to try and find evidence of their entire life timeline. Archaeologists apparently found intermingled items belonging to the English and the Native Americans on the surrounding land. 

Site X

Site X is a little more inland west from where the original Roanoke colony settled. Archaeologists had formed foundations and they were able to dig up this location in order to search for clues about Governor John's colony.  

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Photo Courtesy: [Sepia Times/Universal Images Group/Getty Images]

The excavation showed that the cultures did seem to mix based on containers, tools, and other things that were found in the soil. It would make sense for the colonists to move more inward when John didn't return on time with the supplies, and historians predict that the area they excavated is on or near the native village of Mettaquem.

What The Lost Colony Has Taught Us

The story of Roanoke has taught us that we have lost so much native history because of English colonization efforts and that many native stories wouldn't have even been told without this event happening to colonists. It taught us the power and influence that history can have, for this event happened in a relatively short amount of time on one small piece of Earth, yet it is still nationally talked about over 400 years later. The mysterious Roanoke Island has seemed to impact our view on England's role in colonizing North America. 

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Photo Courtesy: [Visions of America/Universal Images Group/Getty Images]

Pictured above is a photo of gravestones commemorating those who were part of the Lost Colony. We have learned through this story that we will never know the answers for everything as we search throughout history and life. Sir Walter's expeditions show that even a span of a few months, let alone years, can easily influence all that is lost and learned in the human experience. 

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