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Experts from the First Colony Foundation and the British Museum in London discussed their findings Thursday at a scholarly meeting on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
"We believe that this evidence provides conclusive proof that they moved westward up the Albemarle Sound to the confluence of the Chowan and Roanoke rivers," said James Horn, vice president of research and historical interpretation at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
"Their intention was to create a settlement. And this is what we believe we are looking at with this symbol – their clear intention, marked on the map ..."
Attached to the map are two patches. One patch appears to merely correct a mistake on the map, but the other – in what is modern-day Bertie County in northeastern North Carolina – hides what appears to be a fort. Another symbol, appearing to be the very faint image of a different kind of fort, is drawn on top of the patch.
The American and British scholars believe the fort symbol could indicate where the settlers went.
White made the map and other drawings when he travelled to Roanoke Island in 1585 on an expedition commanded by Sir Ralph Lane.
He left the island for England for more supplies but couldn't return again until 1590 because of the war between England and Spain.
When he came back, the colony was gone.
The only clue he found about the fate of the other two dozen was the word "CROATOAN" carved into a post, leading historians to believe they moved south to live with American Indians on what's now Hatteras Island.
But the discovery of the fort symbol offers the first new clue in centuries about what happened to the 95 or so settlers.