Mayor joins US dig in search for lost colonists

THE search for links between Bideford and the earliest American settlers will take the town s Mayor, Cllr Andy Powell, to North Carolina next month. Mr Powell is planning to join high profile archaeologist Professor Mark Horton, one of the team from the t

THE search for links between Bideford and the earliest American settlers will take the town's Mayor, Cllr Andy Powell, to North Carolina next month.

Mr Powell is planning to join high profile archaeologist Professor Mark Horton, one of the team from the television series Coast, and a small group of Americans on a series of exploratory digs on the outer banks region of North Carolina.

Mr Powell represents the town council on the Bideford 500 group, which also includes representatives of the chamber of commerce and other interested parties. I

ts aim is to draw on Bideford's maritime heritage as a focus for tourism and regeneration in the town.


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Aim of the North Carolina project is to establish whether Bidefordians were among the founding fathers of America.

It is believed some could have been among the Lost Colonists who landed on Roanoke Island in the 1580s- more than 30 years before the Pilgrim Fathers set sail from Plymouth.

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The 117 men, women and children disappeared, but it is hoped to establish that they did not perish, but moved on to live with the local native American tribes to become the first permanent settlers of the continent.

In collaboration with an American research group, next month's test digs will examine areas where artefacts have been discovered, including what appear to be Elizabethan bricks - known to have been used as ballast in the ships of colonists - pieces of pottery and even parts of what could be an Elizabethan ship.

"We will be looking at prospective sites, including possible settlements, a midden or rubbish tip and burial sites," said Mr Powell. "This will be a small, low-key operation. It is a fact-finding mission. But, depending on the results, it could lead to a full-scale dig next spring."

Through genealogy and modern DNA testing it is also hoped to establish links between people from Bideford and families in America that can be traced back to this era.

After publication of a list of the Lost Colonists' names earlier this year, Barnstaple businessman Philip Milton became the first local person to have his DNA tested.

Although several matches were found with Americans, genealogical research has not yet been able to take these as far back in time as the Lost Colony.

Five other families whose names might fit with the list had now also come forward, said Mr Powell. DNA test kits had been sent for from a laboratory in Texas, which would also test them.

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