Mayor's US mission finds North Devon link

MAYOR of Bideford Councillor Andy Powell has returned from a mission to North Carolina in search of links between the town and the earliest settlers with some intriguing finds. On the strength of them there are now hopes of a bigger archaeological operati

MAYOR of Bideford Councillor Andy Powell has returned from a mission to North Carolina in search of links between the town and the earliest settlers with some intriguing finds.

On the strength of them there are now hopes of a bigger archaeological operation being mounted next spring.

A group of eight people, headed by high profile archaeologist Professor Mark Horton of the television series Coast , and Mr Powell, investigated several sites of interest on Roanoke Island in North Carolina in an attempt to answer some of the mysteries of what happened to the famous Lost Colony of the 1580s and to discover anything that might reveal clues to their origins.

Mr Powell is hoping to prove that the 117 lost colonists included people from Bideford and also that they did not perish, but were assimilated into the native American tribes and so became some of the founding fathers of America, 30 years before the Pilgrim Fathers set sail from Plymouth.


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His visit with Professor Horton follows extensive research in this country and liaison with American groups, which has led Mr Powell to believe that Bideford families were involved.

Through genealogy and modern DNA testing he is also hoping to establish links between present-day people from the Bideford area and families in America that can be traced back to the Lost Colony era.

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Mr Powell said: "So did we find anything? Well the teasy answer is "maybe." Several of the finds were so astonishing that further analysis and study will be necessary on both sides of the Atlantic before we can declare anything for certain but, suffice it to say, they could be very significant and talks are already under way to finance a return dig next spring on the strength of these finds alone.

"Were any of the finds identifiable as originating from Bideford? Well, I think it safe to reveal that we found some very early North Devon Slipware, but people will have to wait for the results of further investigation before we can say any more.

"Despite the location, it was no picnic. The mosquitoes took full advantage of the humid conditions and warnings were a'plenty to watch out for Cottonmouths or lethal Water Moccasin snakes, to say nothing of a lengthy visit by Hurricane Ida, which not only left us stranded - and ultimately evacuated by a commandeered ferry - but destroyed more than a dozen homes and wiped out the only road off the island. I can tell you, watching 40ft sand dunes move overnight and 30ft waves pound what was already a very low lying area puts global warming firmly into perspective.

"Nevertheless, in between the torrential rain showers and sometimes during them, we dug and sifted our way through over 50 cubic metres of sand and mud in an attempt to find some answers.

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