Discovering The Lost Colony: Cannibalized or Lost at Sea?

In 1584, Sir Walter Raleigh was given permission by Queen Elizabeth I to colonize Virginia. He dispatched an expedition to the East Coast of North America. Between 1585 and 1587, two groups of colonists were left on Roanoke Island to establish the settlement. Sir Raleigh returned from the trip with two American Indians and samples of animals and plants.

After fights with local tribes, the first colony was low on food and men to defend the settlement. When Sir Francis Drake visited after a raid in the Caribbean, he offered to take the people of the settlement back to England. They accepted and left.

In 1587, 150 new colonists arrived and found the local natives (the Croatans) to be friendly. The group tried to befriend some of the other tribes that the previous colonists had fought with. This resulted in the death of one of the settlers – he was killed by the Croatans. The remaining members of the group convinced the leader, Governor White, to return to England for help. They returned to England, but left behind ninety men, seventeen women, and eleven children.

When White returned in August 1590, the settlement was deserted. There were no signs of a struggle and no remains were found at all. The only clue was the word “Croatoan” carved into a post of the fort and “Cro” carved into a nearby tree.

The settlement became known as the Lost Colony and no members were ever seen again.

Hypotheses about their disappearance include cannibalism, starvation or that the people became lost at sea. But the most supported theory is that the colony joined the Croatan tribe.

What do you think happened to this colony?

14 thoughts on “Discovering The Lost Colony: Cannibalized or Lost at Sea?”

  1. Look at 1421 and 1434 by Gavin Menzies.  In those books, Gavin is exploring what the Chinese were doing early in the 15th century before the European explorers really got going.  He touches on both the Bimini Road, Roanoke and a few other things in 1421 as one of the great Chinese treasure fleets made its way north through the Caribbean and along the east coast of North America.  Some pretty cool stuff.

    1. Hi Todd, thank you for stopping by!

      You mention interesting books – I think the Chinese and other empires (also the Ottoman) have often been forgotten in the Western history books. You alwyas hear about Columbus’ travels, but never about the empires that had already explored so much of the world, perhaps even more than Europe!


      1. Oh certainly.  The Ottomans and Indians as well as many Muslim and East African cultures are examined in Gavin’s books.  The Piri Reis map you mentioned before figures prominently as well.

        All of which makes me wonder, if you didn’t come upon this information through Gavin’s books like I did, how did you come upon these things, the map, Bimini, Roanoke … guess I’m fishing for another line of research to follow ;-p

        1. I found a couple of lists around the internet which were about these “phenomena” – I found them really interesting so I researched them further online! :)

  2. Hi Manon
    Did you know Terrell Mims used the deserted Colony as the prologue to one of his books?It’s an enigmatic question with lots of possibilities, but I’m always for the simplest answer – I vote for the colonists leaving to live with the local tribe.You’ve got to admit that the people who came to America has guts. Can you imagine signing up for a 4000 mile journey over the ocean to a place where the previous colony left, staved and beaten by the indigenous people? What’s more, they took their kids along as well!Cheers.

    1. Hi Nigel,

      No, I didn’t know! Interesting :) 
      I agree the colonists had guts – it must have been scary and exciting at the same time, you never knew what to expect I think. Not to mention the journey by ship!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. The colonists were assimilated. Resistance was futile.They saw they weren’t going to make it without immediate help, and so accepted the Croatans offer of assimilation. The bus to Croatoapolis was pulling away from the curb, so writing “Croatoan” and “Cro” was all they had time to do after packing their bags.

  4. Hi Manon. Interesting stuff. I would like to think the settlers were incorporated into the Croatoans. I’m wondering if any Croatoans are left that we could do a bit  of genetic testing on.

    I always enjoy your blog, Manon. :)

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