Q&A with Lost Colony researcher

Brent Lane, executive director for the UNC Center for Competitive Economies, helped discover a hidden fort on a 425-year-old map of North Carolina that some archaeologists believe could be the site of the Lost Colony’s planned capital.

Lane was interested in analyzing the map drawn by the members of the first English colony in America. In the process, he realized the significance of the map’s patches, which are pieces of parchment covering sections of the map.

The British Museum and First Colony Foundation, which Lane is a board member for, detailed Lane’s discovery at UNC on May 3. Excavation of the fort site — which spans from the modern-day Chesapeake Bay region in Virginia to Cape Lookout — is expected to begin in the fall.

*Daily Tar Heel: *Why would mapmakers cover the fort symbol with a patch?

*Brent Lane: *The patch that everyone is interested in was there to hide a dramatic fort symbol that was marking the spot to build a capital city for Sir Walter Raleigh. One explanation was that the mapmakers hid it because they changed their plans about the location to build the capital city. Another explanation is that they covered it up so that spies from Spain in the English court would not know where to find and destroy their capital. On top of the patch there is a faint image similar to the fort symbol underneath, drawn in invisible ink.

DTH: What is the significance of this discovery?

BL: This colony is the one that has meant something special to people for the last centuries. The search for it is a burden for every generation. It is within our grasp now.

DTH: Will you continue work on the project?

BL: My value at this point is to understand how this search can help the school and the economy. There is no gold or money buried with the Lost Colony. The real treasure is the lessons learned in the search. I am interested in how students in UNC and in high schools can participate.

*DTH: *What does renewed interest in the Lost Colony mean for economic development?

*BL: *What I expect is that tourism will increase in parts of the state associated with the Lost Colony. In the long term, people are attracted to communities with character, which often comes from history. The more they learn, the more attractive North Carolina will be to tourists, new residents and businesses.

Contact the State & National Editor at state@dailytarheel.com.

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