Searching for the Lost Colony Using Remote Sensing


The Director, Fred Willard, of the Lost Colony for Science and Research is utilizing remote sensing in archaeology in several counties in NC just west of Roanoke Island within a vast floodplain. He has engaged Computer Science partners, at the Univ. of Missouri, to aid in this research study and public outreach with their remote sensing software, Kolam. Archaeology in Education, Ltd. is coordinating the remote sensing research and public education efforts for the Lost Colony Center. The IKONOS satellite imagery is provided by the Geology, Environmental Marine Science Dept. (GEMS) of Elizabeth City State University, which supports the Lost Colony research, along with the Center for Excellence in Remote Sensing Education and Research (CERSER).

On December 4, 2003, Mr. Willard's predictive modeling and his use of remote sensing, geology, environmental science and cultural/archival data sets was presented as the National Academy Invitational Presentation at the Association for the Advancement of Educational Research. Archaeology in Education, Ltd. assisted in the presentation about the remote sensing applications. Enhanced satellite images, for greater environmental differentiations and higher resolution, were presented using Kolam software.

These data sets are being used in the Center's search for the lost colonists "50 miles inland" among the "ridges" of the floodplain, many of which were occupied by Croatans. From historical evidence, both oral and archival, it is predicted that the Croatans used the natural geology and environment of the ridges for occupation and as part of a vast socio-economic trail system throughout the floodplains.

A DNA study of the extant descendant population in these counties is anticipated to demonstrate their Indian heritage. Their surnames, the same as the lost colonists, and their ethnic heritage indicates intermarriage among Afro-Americans, English and Croatans. The English descendants of the "colonists" lost in the New World support this investigation of their ancestors. The DNA results will enable the confirmation that the first English colonists in the New World and their descendants intermarried with the Croatan Indians. All the current descendant communities are supportive of this study. For the DNA study, Mr. Willard has formed a proposal committee in preparation for funding applications through sponsors and or grantors.

Upon funding, archaeological testing is planned to locate 16th C deposits among the ridges of the NC floodplains. Through future funding, field tests with notebooks are planned of the Kolam software during ground-truthing and archaeological testing. These field tests of the pedictions will expand our understanding of where and how the first English colonists lived after their dispersal from Roanoke Island. The DNA study can provide the evidence of their dispersal among the Croatans, but not solve the "puzzle" of how it happened. Archaeology is the only solution.

One meter or better high-resolution multispectral imagery from space is now routinely available through commercial satellites. Visualization and data processing software, known as Kolam, developed at the University of Missouri provides rapid and efficient access to extremely large high resolution imagery on standard personal computer platforms. Kolam uses novel data structures and parallel algorithms to visualize datasets that until recently required supercomputing resources. Kolam enables the interactive exploration and dynamic image enhancement of the large image IKONOS mosaics covering the conjectured sites of the Lost Colony. Kolam can also combine historical map overlays with current satellite imagery. Kolam is being enhanced to accept GPS data for field use.

Kolam allows increased digital visualization of all landmarks and variant vegetation crucial to the predictions about Croatan occupations, and possibly that of the lost colonists, among the floodplain regions of the IKONOS image. Kolam can reveal subtle features in vegetation and landform, that is, can readily enhance a historic trail, which is possibly a Croatan trail, Buck Ridge and Polecat Ridge, including a well. The digital data from the IKONOS satellites occur from 423 miles elevation and records 4 m (multispectral) and 1 m (panochromatic) resolutions.

Additionally, a Magnet Middle School, Crittenden, Newport News, Va., has chosen the Lost Colony Project in Remote Sensing as a 6th grade team's focus for their Magnet Challenge Project for spring, 2004. With an Exxon grant and Arch. in Educ. (AIE) as their school partner, "Remote Sensing in Archaeology: Searching for the Lost Colony" will be integrated into their school system's efforts to apply and reinforce their State's standards of learning objectives.


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