LCRG – Nov 2012 Newsletter Part 2: The Dig

29 Sep

Lost Colony Research Group: Part 2 of their Nov 2012 Newsletter
Written by Roberta Estes

The 2012 Dig

For those of you who follow along, the Lost Colony Research Group has sponsored archaeological digs now on Hatteras Island in 2009, 2010, 2011 and now, 2012. This year’s dig was somewhat different since we feel we have located the original site of the colonists on Hatteras Island in previous years. Additionally, we welcomed to our project this year Dr. Charles Ewen at ECU as well as two additional professional archaeologists. We have been very blessed. Our new project archaeologist is Jennifer Gabriel.

As you also know, due to modern day pirates called treasure hunters, we have to keep the sites where we dig a well-guarded secret. Besides, the last thing a property owner wants to find is their yard looking like swiss cheese when they return home one day, meaning that someone with a metal detector has trespassed and not only stolen historically important items, but ruined the area for subsequent archaeology. So while I can’t tell you exactly where we were, suffice it to say that we are still on Hatteras Island and we are still pursing the colonists.

We actually dug in several location this year as our dig time in the field was expanded to two weeks. I will post two or three different blogs that shows some of our different activities and the group as well. We’ve never had a better group, or a better time. Were it not for the extreme heat, the massive number of mosquitos and ticks, it was almost like a vacation.

Refrains from the nursery rhyme, “The Old Gray Mare, She Ain’t What She Used to Be” played through my head every morning as I got my old, achy self out of bed to go and dig some more.

However, this dig was blessed from the beginning. Dawn found a lucky penny and we saw a beautiful double rainbow from the deck of the house that we rented on the first morning. Did I mention that there were 37 steps up and down. If not, I probably will mention that several times Houses on Hatteras are built on stilts so that the flooding doesn’t damage the contents. However, that means that the first floor is really the second floor, and so on.

Rental properties are often “ridden hard and put up wet,” so to speak, and this one was no different. The electricity didn’t work correctly, the AC worked only on the second floor and not on the third which is where we cooked (and where I slept) so we simply left the windows open. However, the windows had no screens, so suffice it to say that we had “visitors” in the night. I finally simply covered up entirely, regardless of the heat, as a form of protection from the mosquitos and whatever else I might wake up to discover crawling through my hair, like the creature below.

Anne, who camped in a tent under the house, actually had the best accommodations of all….until the storm…..but that story is for another day.

The good news is that we were able to dig on a property that is undeveloped. This translates into the fact that the land is likely much less disturbed than areas where there is development. The bad news is that it is also covered in forest and we had to hack and chop our way though it to create transits to dig test pits in a line across from one side of the property to the other. Suffice it to say that this took a couple of days and it was the hottest, sweatiest two days of my life. On day two, Alex showed up with a chain saw and he, indeed, was the hero of the entire dig. Hats off to Alex.

Here is a picture of part of our crew, flanking the woods we would be digging through shortly. Baylus, on the left, our map-maker and one of our historians, Dawn, founder of the Hatteras Island Genealogical Society, Andy Powell, our historian from England, Dr. Charles Ewen, head of the Anthropological Lab at ECU and our new project archaeologist, Jennifer Gabriel.

A few minutes later, after instructions were given, the clearing began. We quickly decided that indeed, the real impediment to the colonists survival was not hunger, not at all, but instead, mosquitos, brown recluse spiders, ticks and the diseases they carry, alligators and other critters, combined with dehydration and poison ivy. If you add in the clothes they were wearing, we figured that they either sweat to death in short order, or they stripped plumb naked and adopted the Indian way of life very nearly immediately. The Native people knew how to survive in this hot, humid environment. Somehow the word hot just doesn’t convey the gravity of the situation. You began to sweat walking down the stairs in the morning. Ice melted in the cooler, entirely, in half a day, and that cooler was in the shade. We bought bandanas as sweat bands so we could see. You had to peel your clothes off at the end of the day. You had to reapply insecticide constantly because you sweated and wiped it off continuously. To say this was “not fun” is the understatement of the year.

As an example, here is a transit that has been cleared. Notice the undergrowth beside he cleared area. That’s what we started with. You could not even begin to walk through it.

Let the clearing begin!! Dawn is wearing our group mascot, our pirate bandana.

The part of Hatteras Island that is not forested or developed is primarily swamp or beach. Keep in mind that the water table has risen approximately 3 feet since the time the colonists lived there. So some of the area now swamp may have been drier then.

One of the residents in the area allowed us to walk out on their “pier.” I’m not sure what a quarter mile long walkway built through swamp that eventually ends at the water is called. It surely is beautiful though. The local residents could not have been nicer or more accommodating.

One extremely important part of our day was “tick check.” Are you modest? Then check it at the door because, truthfully, you can’t see every part of your body. And let’s just say that ticks are very good at being evaded by people’s prying eyes. Yes indeed, we had “tick removal” every evening. We began checking several times through the day when we took breaks. In the tick check picture that follows, I want you to notice Andy’s ankles. Andy is the only one of us who has actually experienced Lyme disease. It went undiagnosed for 5 years or so and nearly killed him. He is extremely tick conscious and he taped his pants to his boots with duct tape. Now even the most determined tick can not get through duct tape. However, one did get through the weave in my socks, which were pulled up over the bottom of my pants, and down my boot. Some ticks are so tiny you almost can’t see them, and those are the dangerous ones, the deer ticks that carry Lyme disease.

At the beginning and end of each day, Cousin George cooked for us. That man has the stamina and patience of a saint. He also made us lunch. Often we needed rest as much as food at lunchtime. Some days he delivered to the site and others we went back to the house, and the AC in the house, such as it was, for an hour or so.

Andy brought us some English treats. One was called Marmite and it was, well, interesting. It’s either a love it or hate it kind of thing with a very unique, strong, savory, salty, taste. In fact, the company slogan is “Love it or hate it.” It is made from yeast extracts which are the byproducts of beer brewing. Well, now we know why Baylus loved it You can read more about Marmite here.

It was fun to experience something new culturally. Personally, I liked the strawberry and the chocolate covered ginger biscuits that Andy brought better. In the US, we would call them cookies, but by whatever name, they were yummy.

However, Anne Poole got even for the Marmite by introducing Andy to fatback and collard greens. Andy of course was a good sport, but he’s not convinced just yet about the collards. However, Anne neglected one critical component of collards and that is the pepper vinegar. How can one eat collards without pepper vinegar? For those who don’t know, it’s a southern thing where you take hot, and I do mean those tiny very hot peppers, put them in an old salad dressing bottle, cover with vinegar, let them set, and then enjoy. The vinegar preserves the peppers, the peppers flavor the vinegar and you can put it on many things, including but not limited to collards. I also like it on vinegar coleslaw. You can tell that Andy is unconvinced, below.

The ocean was just a block away and we were fortunate that the house we rented provided a nice view through an area that was undeveloped. The sand and the ocean are beautiful, except when having a storm, but that is a story for another newsletter, so stay tuned.

We were extremely lucky because we were afforded a stunning view of the sunset every night while we were there. By the time the sun set, we had rested for awhile, some took a nap after the days digging, had a wonderful “chef’s choice’ dinner and were relaxing in the Adirondack chairs on the deck. Yes, that third floor deck that was 37 steps up. Seeing sights like this almost made those 37 steps worthwhile.

Hatteras Measles

We were fortunate to have two British people with us on our dig. Andy Powell, of Bideford, is by this time an old hand at archaeology, but Alex, or Little Alex as we affectionately call her, isn’t. In fact, this is her first dig. I think this might have been a bit more than she was counting on – with the insects and such, but indeed she was a trooper. And what a lovely young lady!

When I asked them to stand together for a photo, little did I realize they both struck the British “pose” apparently, as they are standing in the same exact position. And they sounded quite a bit alike too when they spoke. We all know how the British love their hats too. What a wonderfully rounded, international, group we had.

I want to call attention to the their ankles. Most of us did what Alex did, pulled our socks up over our pants legs to attempt to preclude opportunistic ticks from attaching themselves to us. Andy, however, in a fit of ingenuity, duct taped his pants to his socks and boots. Now, he’s not just a worry wart, he’s a veteran, and a survivor of Lyme disease that he caught in England some years ago. So Andy is understandably concerned about creepy crawley things.

Duct tape, while apparently effective against ticks, is not so much so against what appear to be mosquito bites. We weren’t sure what this was, and he had it on his hands and arms as well. There were votes for poison ivy, but poison ivy never got near his skin through all that duct tape.

Andy is also apparently quite sensitive to our US insects as he had a much more pronounced reaction than any of us who live here. So, in honor of Andy, we’ve now named his crud the Hatteras Measles. Looked like measles, itched like measles, and we had numerous home “cures” we wanted to try on him. For some reason, after the first one where we made him walk in the ocean, he balked at the rest. I do think one had something to do with collards and grits…but I’m not sure. But judging from his expression, he looked somewhat doubtful as to the relative effectiveness of the various proposed home remedies!

Catch us Online
Our Lost Colony website includes more than 8000 pages of research, all free, at and
Our Project on Facebook –!/pages/Lost-Colony-of-Roanoke-DNA-Project/126053773239?v=wall – thanks to Janet Crain for this
Our Blog – – If you don’t subscribe to our blog…now’s a great time to do that…just click on over and sign up so you don’t miss anything!! Thanks to Janet Crain and Penny Ferguson for our wonderful blog.
Our Website – – Nelda adds to information to our website almost daily. Have you checked your surnames lately to see what is new? Please contribute something for your surnames, or a county of interest. Thanks to Nelda Percival for her untiring work on our website.

GenealogyWise – – Thanks to Andy Powell for setting this up.
Hatteras Island Genealogical and Preservation Society webpage – our sister organization -
Hatteras Island Genealogical and Preservation Society Blog –
Our DNA projects at Family Tree DNA:
Lost Colony Yline – (paternal surname) –

Lost Colony Mitochondrial – (maternal line) –

Lost Colony Family Finder – (autosomal)

Hatteras Island Fathers DNA project at

Hatteras Island Mothers DNA project at

Hatteras Island Family Finder project at
Hatteras Island Genealogy Society at!/group.php?gid=245433063719&ref=ts


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