Almost 400 years after one of the Raleigh Colonies disappeared, archeologists working on Roanoke Island in North Carolina say they have uncovered artifacts believed to be the remnants of the lost colony.
The First Colony
In the late 16th century, Queen Elizabeth I attempted to establish a permanent English settlement in the United States through the efforts of Sir Walter Raleigh.
But just three years after the settlement, the English colonists disappeared and no one knows why.
Now, experts from the First Colony Foundation found two small pieces of blue and brown pottery that may have been an apothecary or medicine jar. The fragments were unearthed during a dig at Roanoke Island.
Archeologist Eric Deetz, who described the discovery as "exciting," personally verified the pieces, which are very small and fragile.
"A single piece is as good as a whole pot," Deetz tells The Huffington Post.
Deetz and his team hope that the pottery pieces could help shed light on the colonists who vanished in 1590, which sparked one of the greatest American mysteries.
Indeed, the colonists had only been living on Roanoke Island for a while when its governor John White returned to England to get supplies. When he came back to the island, his settlement was gone completely.
Deetz said approximately one century had passed before any other colonists moved on the same land.
Why The Pottery Pieces Are Important
Researchers say that because of the pottery pieces' location and style, it is relatively easy to find the lost colony. Deetz says there is no doubt that the fragments they unearthed were part of the time period.
The pottery itself was tin-glazed, which was a form common during the 1570s to the 1620s, he says.
Deetz says he is in awe that the artifacts had survived even after all these years.
Although there have been other shards of pottery discovered at Roanoke Island, their size have made them impossible to classify outside of being identified as European. Deetz says these were the type of pottery that would not have a "shelf life."
However, it is unclear whether the Raleigh colony owned the apothecary jar. And although the recent pottery pieces are small, Deetz says they are large enough to give him and his colleagues the shape, size and form of the pot.
Jami Lanier, who was involved in the project, says the discovery is important because of what it could tell the researchers.
"The most important value is the stories they can tell and they are pieces of the puzzle that can perhaps help solve the mystery," says Lanier.
The artifacts have since then been sent out of North Carolina for further documentation and tests. Deetz says that once the pieces are returned, they will likely be displayed in the National Park Service's welcome center.