By K. Kris Hirst
The first program, airing the evening of Wednesday July 8th (8 pm EDT, check local listings), features ongoing investigations at Fort Raleigh, North Carolina, the site of the first English colony in the American continents. The site is perhaps more famously known as the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island, and its legend about Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the Americas, and the mysterious disappearance of the colony has inspired untold numbers of American children into learning about the past.
Time Team and Fort Raleigh
Time Team America's hour long video on Fort Raleigh documents three days of excavations, assisted by geophysical survey. The test area is located at an area of the island that had been identified as containing historic artifacts of the right age about 10 years ago. Two large trenches are excavated over the three days in this area, opened using a backhoe to strip off the wind-blown sand believed to have been deposited on the area after the American Revolution.
Fort Raleigh, North Carolina
Why We Went There
Site Update: Since We Left
Site Update: Final Thoughts
Comment: Some thoughts on the information the show imparted:
Time Team America doesn't seem to think there's much mystery about what happened to the "lost colony." As the historians explain it:
The colonists sent their leader White to England for supplies. It took White three years to return. When he arrived, the colonists had vanished and the settlement was deserted. His daughter and his newly born granddaughter were among the missing.
The settlers had said they'd leave White a sign if they decided to moved the camp. They carved the fragment "Cro" on a tree by the water and the word "Croatoan" on the gatepost of the settlement's palisade. They were supposed to add a cross if there was danger, but White didn't find one.
As the historians put it, they left voluntarily. That was the plan all along. Finding them missing wasn't discouraging to White, but the ship's captain wouldn't stay any longer. White never got a chance to look for his fellow colonists.
The historians believe the colonists dismantled some of the structures and took the wooden planks along with their heavy guns. The best guess is they went 50 miles up Albemarle Sound to the meeting point of the Chowan and Roanoke Rivers. The location had fresh water and was close to friendly Indians, so they had a better chance to survive there.
I believe Time Team America has produced five episodes so far. Two are about Indians directly and two, including Fort Raleigh, are about them indirectly. I'm sure the archaeologists could find plenty of non-Indian sites to explore, so it's nice that they're focusing their attention on Indians.
Anyway, Time Team America is a typical Nova-style documentary from PBS. Not stunning, but solid and informative. Worth watching for people interested in archaeology.
For more on Roanoke, see:
Roanoke play must go on
Roanoke movie on Sci-Fi Channel
Satirical look at Roanoke