New Search for 'Lost Colony' Is under Way

Insight on the News, March 29, 2004 | Go to article overview

New Search for 'Lost Colony' Is under Way


Byline: John Elvin, INSIGHT

New Search for 'Lost Colony' Is Under Way

About all you can say for certain about the fate of the Lost Colony the first English settlement in North America, established in the 1580s at Roanoke Island off what is now North Carolina is that it's still lost. What happened to it remains one of history's greatest puzzles.

Yet another in a long string of efforts to solve the mysterious disappearance of the colony inhabitants and buildings as well has been launched via the First Colony Foundation, a group headed by interested archaeologists and historians. According to a report by National Geographic magazine, the group hopes to begin a new dig at Manteo, N.C., early this summer.

After an unsuccessful initial attempt at establishing an all-male colony on the site, a second effort was launched by 115 men, women and children in 1587. Three years later, the entire group had disappeared, leaving behind only the single word "Croatoan" inscribed on a tree.

There have been a number of theories put forward about what happened. One is that the colonists simply were unprepared to cope with survival conditions and got no help from home in their struggles. Quite possibly, the colony was wiped out by hostile Indians, but it also has been suggested that the group simply moved inland and assimilated into friendly tribes. Another notion is that the colonists were wiped out by Spanish soldiers out of Florida.

A few years ago, scientists studying tree rings found that one of the worst droughts in 800 years took place during the settlement attempt; a similar finding has been put forward to explain the terrible "starving time" that afflicted the more successful Jamestown colony later. The Tidewater region of the country was at the center of the area affected by the drought, according to researchers at the College of William and Mary and the University of Arkansas. Though the fate of the Roanoke Island settlers still is unknown, it is clear that the Jamestown settlers, in what now is Virginia, resorted to cannibalism in their desperation.

Despite numerous amateur and professional digs, the exact site of the village the "lost" colonists established has never been determined. Some researchers believe the site may now be underwater due to erosion. Others think it may be buried beneath dunes. And still others hope the answer is never found, because the intrigue surrounding the fate of the lost colony lures many newcomers into a study of history. Among many books on the subject, Roanoke: Mystery of the Lost Colony offers an intriguing solution to the mystery involving mutiny and official cover-up.

Idaho Law Would Trim Residents' Fat

Idaho wants to be known for its potatoes, but not its couch potatoes. Legislators in the Statehouse have passed a weight-control bill aimed at folks who get Medicaid assistance due to obesity.

If the bill becomes law, it will allow the state to enroll up to 100 Medicaid recipients in a three-year program aimed at slimming them down a bit. Obesity, often portrayed as a national epidemic, can lead to a variety of ills, such as diabetes and heart disease. Although the problem often is blamed on genetics, experts say it's as much due to a couch-potato lifestyle encouraged by modern technology, conveniences and passive entertainment such as television. State Rep. Margaret Henbest, a Democrat and a prime backer of the legislation, told the Idaho Statesman newspaper that $1 out of every $10 in Medicaid costs goes to those with obesity problems.

Nearly 59 million adults are obese, according to the federal government. Add to that about 9 million young people the government classifies as overweight. Some 23 states have received federal funding to set up programs aimed at reducing fat among their citizens, though Idaho is not among those receiving grants.

Opposition to the proposal comes from some who see it as just one more way to pick the pockets of taxpayers and from others who blame government for making it easy for people to get fat and then, as one conservative legislator put it, taking on the "hopeless task of protecting them. …

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