Dare Stone: Does debunking need debunking?

In the July 2009 North Carolina Historical Review, David La Vere, professor of history at UNC Wilmington, argued for taking seriously the “Dare Stone” found near the Chowan River in 1937:

“Scholars have dismissed the stone as a forgery, but a closer look shows it might well be what it purports to be: a last message from Eleanor Dare and the Lost Colony…. It tells a credible story….”

Now Dram Tree Books in Wilmington has published Dr. La Vere’s  “The Lost Rocks: The Dare Stones and the Unsolved Mystery of Sir Walter Raleigh’s Lost Colony.”

I asked him whether the stone might yield its secrets to modern forensic science.

“The Stone’s language has been examined many times,” he replied. “I had an Elizabethan scholar look over the language. He went in with the idea to discredit and came away amazed how it all fit Elizabethan English. He was particularly interested in the word ‘salvage’ (for savage) which was used in English (from the Italian word for forest) during only a few years…. The Lost Colony fit in with that period.
“I don’t know when the physical aspect of the stone was examined last. In the 1980s it was looked over, but they found they could not come to any new evidence on it. It still looks like a chisel did it. The problem was that it was ‘corrupted’  from the time it was found — gone over with a wire brush, pencils and nail. New techniques would entail destroying parts of the stone, and Brenau [University, where it resides] doesn’t seem willing to do that.

“So it could be real, or it could be a good fake.”

Paging Sam Spade….

3 thoughts on “Dare Stone: Does debunking need debunking?”

  1. Teaching history, I am appalled by the smug lack of openness among academics on facing new evidence. The original debunking of the Dare Stones was accomplished by a non-academic magazine, Saturday Evening Post, based on supposed questionable motivations of the many donors. Do you think that the entire pursuit of Eleanor Dare’s heroic and tragic exodus should be waylaid without detailing the provenance of each stone individually. Some of the 48 stones may be fake, but prove it case by case…if you can.

  2. Having recently read, “The Lost Rocks” and the entire Saturday Evening Post article by Mr. Sparkes I am left with the feeling that the original Dare stone found by Mr. Hammond may indeed be genuine and should be viewed as an entirely separate entity. It is much different than the subsequent stones found after the reward was offered. It seems rather obvious that the hoaxers simply keyed off of the original stone with their chiseled “language”. I believe that in later years, Mr. Sparkes himself was intrigued with the first stone and had his doubts that it alone was a forgery as were the rest. I also am of the opinion that the first stone should be in a museum display. Just one man’s thoughts.

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