Croataon Archeological Society is committed to uncovering Hatteras Island’s history and sharing its finds with the community.
Two recent finds by the Croatoan Archeological Society point to the fact that the lost colonists of Roanoke Island likely moved to Hatteras Island with Manteo’s Croatoan tribe.
In April 2015 archeologists found the handle of an Elizabethan rapier and a piece of a small slate writing tablet with a lead pencil from a sixteenth century notebook earlier this spring in the area of Cape Creek. These are considered significant finds in proving the colonists did join the tribe.
“The first person to say the colonists went to Hatteras Island was John White,” says Maggie Dawson, co-founder of the Croatoan Archeological Society (CAS). “Now there is definitely the archeological evidence to support what the history already says. The findings this year were great supporting artifacts and provide evidence that builds upon previous years.”
The slate, Dawson says, is exactly like the larger piece of slate at the Jamestown settlement. “We are hoping to find more of the slate during our dig next year,” she says.
Dawson and her husband, Scott Dawson, a Hatteras native, founded CAS in 2009 under the direction of Dr. Mark Horton, professor of archeology from University of Bristol in England, with the mission to learn as much about the history of the Croatoan tribe and the earlier inhabitants of the island.
In the spring of 2010, the team conducted its full-scale excavation with archeology students from the University of Bristol. It was the start of what has become an annual excavation at various sites on the island.
In the last five annual digs Dawson says archeologists have unearthed more than 30,000 animal bone fragments that are between 400 and 500 years old as well as thousands of shells and pieces of Native American pottery. European artifacts found on the island include ceramic and weaponry pieces.
Other items discovered over the years during the annual digs include pieces of pipe, coin weights, lead shot and a pocket watch key.
While the findings of this spring are significant to the Lost Colony story, Dawson says she is most fascinated by the early human archeology.
“I think one of the coolest pieces we have found is a spear point that is more than 5,000 years old,” she says.
A bow drill stone and Cumberland point discovered on the island proves that native cultures inhabited the island at least 12,000 years ago, Dawson says. “I find that much more interesting than the Lost Colony,” she says.
Dawson says the goal of the CAS continues to be to protect and preserve the history and archeology of the island and to share what the society is learning with the public.
“This mission is the basis of community archeology, which is very common in England and gaining momentum in the United States,” she says.
The society’s goal is to have a free-standing museum to display and preserve the Hatteras finds in a permanent building. Because the Hatteras Village Community Building, where the society typically has a display, is under renovation, the group has been utilizing a mobile museum to transport artifacts to community meetings and events.
During the 2015 dig the team joined forces with Cape Hatteras Secondary School students. Students were able to perform in all aspects of the excavation, from the digging, sifting, cleaning and sorting of artifacts to cataloging, learning the process of wet sieving and plotting and documenting the trench site.
All artifacts found on the digs belong to the owners of the property, and the society wants to keep the artifacts discovered on the island.
The group also holds expos for the public and archaeology workshops for children periodically.
Want to help?
The Croatoan Archaeological Society is solely run off of public donations and support. If you would like to help support their continuing archaeological research and community involvement/work, you may go to cashatteras.com to become a member or make a donation. You can also mail a donation to CAS, Inc., P.O. Box 938, Buxton, N.C. 27920. They also currently have a GoFundMe campaign in place, with funds specifically earmarked for their Annual Spring Dig in 2016. Follow the society on Facebook at Dig Hatteras.