Early map of Virginia reveals plans for a fort: did Lost Colonists head there?

A portion of Virgenia Pars map with patch
A portion of John White's map "Virgenia Pars." A patch on the map covers a symbol for a fort. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Researchers from the U.S. and U.K. announced earlier today that a 16th century map of coastal Virginia and North Carolina reveals the location of a planned fort or settlement. And, they suggest, that spot, at the confluence of the Roanoke and Chowan rivers, may be where settlers from the Lost Colony headed.

The lozenge shape on John White’s “Virgenia Pars”, which researchers suggest represents a fort, was discovered when experts at the British Museum used lights and other techniques to study details hidden by a patch on the map.

from Examination of patches on a map of the east coast of North America by John White ("La Virginea Pars";1906,0509.1.3), CSR ANALYTICAL REQUEST NO. AR2012-21 . © The Trustees of the British Museum

A panel of historians and archaeologists assembled by the First Colony Foundation discussed their findings and theories this morning at Wilson Library in Chapel Hill. Panelist James Horn, an historian and author of A Kingdom Strange: The Brief and Tragic History of the Lost Colony of Roanoke, says that before John White left his fellow colonists in 1587, the settlers had already discussed moving about 50 miles inland. That distance roughly compares to the location of the fort depicted on the map. Additional details of the First Colony Foundation’s research and theories are here.

White’s “Virgenia Pars” map is considered relatively accurate in its depiction of the region’s geography. And The News and Observer reports that the site of the planned fort or settlement is “near Scotch Hall Preserve, a golf course and residential community just across the Albemarle Sound from Edenton.”

Although archaeologists expect to study the area of the planned fort or settlement, a timeline for such work has yet to be disclosed.

NC court gives thumbs down to ‘rule of thumb’

“To illustrate the misogynous underpinnings of our society, analysts have referred to the ‘rule of thumb’ by which English and American law as recently as the 18th and 19th century reputedly upheld the right of a man to beat his wife with a rod, provided it was no thicker than his thumb….

“The rule was originally asserted in England by Judge Buller in 1783 — but English legal authorities challenged him and writers and cartoonists lampooned him.

“Some scholars have asserted that the rule of thumb became incorporated into American law…  and a ruling by the State Supreme Court of North Carolina is cited. However, closer inspection reveals that the court repudiated both the right of a husband to beat his wife and specifically the rule of thumb, even ridiculing the latter….
“Although the court did uphold the lower court’s ruling that the husband who had struck his wife with ‘three licks’ from a ‘switch about the size of one of his fingers’ had not violated the law, the judges emphasized that their grounds were ‘not that the husband has the right to whip his wife much or little; but that we will not interfere with family government in trifling cases.’ ”

— From “Handbook of the Sociology of Gender” by Janet Saltzman Chafetz (2006)