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In August 1587, a group of over a hundred English settlers arrived at Roanoke Island. The new colony was led by John White, who had to sail back to England later that year to obtain supplies. Unfortunately, White’s return to Roanoke Island was delayed as a major naval war broke out between England and Spain which prompted Queen Elizabeth I to direct all available ships to battle the powerful Spanish Armada.

In August 1590, White managed to return to Roanoke Island where he left his family and other settlers. Shockingly, the colony and its inhabitants were nowhere to be found — as if they vanished into thin air. No trace of them could be found in the area. The word “CROATOAN” and the letters “CRO” carved into trees within the colony’s borders were the only clues left.

What happened to the Lost Colony?

White and his crew were not able to thoroughly investigate what happened or to its inhabitants because of an impending storm which forced them to return to England.

Investigations on what happened to the Lost Colony have continued over the centuries, but none of the explanations were sufficient. Some of the theories include a deadly disease that killed all inhabitants, a violent riot stirred by local Native American tribes in the area which caused the people to split up and disperse, and that the colonists abandoned Roanoke Island and traveled to nearby Hatteras Island or other areas.

The Croatoan Project has been researching and reviewing archaeological evidence since 1998. Currently, the evidence they have collected supports the theory that colonists moved or interacted with the natives of Hatteras Island. Various artifacts and objects that only English settlers would have owned at the time were found within the Croatoan areas, which made experts believe that there was indeed a connection between the two groups. However, no definitive answer had been found to fully explain what happened to the Lost Colony of Roanoke.