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Croatan Archaeological Site Collection

(Manuscript Collection #1061)

Descriptive Summary Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Title: Croatan Archaeological Site Collection
Creator: Phelps, David S.
Repository: ECU Manuscript Collection
Languages: English
Abstract: Signet Ring Specimen No. 1283-1297 (possibly 16th century) engraved with a "lion passant" (prancing lion) crest attributed to the Kendall family. Excavated at the Cape Creek site (Croatan), Buxton, Dare County, North Carolina, in 1998 during the Croatan Archaeological Project, East Carolina University Professor Emeritus David Sutton Phelps, Director. Dimensions: 0.75" (l) x 0.5" (w) x 0.25" (d). Weight: 0.25 oz. 10-carat gold.
Extent: 0.1 Cubic feet, 1 archival box .

Administrative Information Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Accessions Information

February 1, 2006, 1 item; 0.1 cubic feet; Signet Ring Specimen No. 1283-1297 (possibly 16th century) engraved with a prancing lion crest. Found in 1998 during the East Carolina University Croatan Archaeological Project (1997-present), directed by East Carolina University Professor Emeritus David Sutton Phelps, at the Cape Creek site (Croatan), Buxton, Dare County, North Carolina. Dimensions: 0.75" (l) x 0.5" (w) x 0.25" (d). Weight: 0.25 oz. 10-carat gold. Transferred by Dr. Charles R. Ewen, Director, Archaeology Laboratory.

Access Restrictions

Available for research only in the presence of 2 Search Room staff members. Researchers must use cotton gloves.

Copyright Notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

Preferred Citation

Croatan Archaeological Site Collection (#1061), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.

Acquisition Information

  • Transferred by Dr. Charles R. Ewen

Processing Information

  • Processed by Martha G. Elmore, February 10, 2006

  • Encoded by Martha G. Elmore, February 10, 2006


Biographical / Historical Note Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Dr. David S. Phelps, Professor Emeritus and retired director of the East Carolina University Archaeology Laboratory, directs the Croatan Archaeological Project exploring the Cape Creek site, ancient capital of the Croatan Indians and other sites on Hatteras Island. Although tests were made at Cape Creek in 1983 and again in 1995-1996, the major project began in 1997, and has been funded by the Richard J. III and Marie M. Reynolds Foundation, the Michael Kelly Foundation and numerous private donors. Analysis and reporting of project results are currently ongoing. In 1998 the team discovered a 10-carat gold signet ring whose face bears an engraving of a prancing lion. The ring is believed to date to the 16th century.

Description Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

The signet ring was found during the Fall 1998 field session in the general debris around an Indian workshop/trading center dating to the period ca. 1650-1715. The remaining sections of the heavily patinated ring's shank were worn paper thin and most of the shank was broken away, indicating it was probably an heirloom at the time of its discard. The workshop was dated by coins and lead bale seals of the 1670's and other artifacts. Both Indian materials (shell beads and bone ring beads) and metal artifacts (lead shot, copper beads and figurines) were being produced there, and European goods (brass pins, brass and copper raw material, buttons, gunflints and gun parts, cloth) were obtained in trade. The workshop feature is only a small time slice of the Cape Creek site, which was first occupied at least by AD 400. It became the Croatan capital town ca. AD 800 and remained the major town of the Croatan through AD 1759, when it and 200 acres around it were granted to the Hatteras Indians (historic name given to the Croatan by Colonials) by Royal Governor Arthur Dobbs.

Project researchers, with the aid of experts at the Royal College of Arms in London, have traced the prancing lion crest on the ring to one used by the Kendall family in the 16th century. Two Kendalls were associated with the Roanoke Colony of 1585-1586, the Ralph Lane colony. One, a "Master" Kendall, was listed as one of Lane's gentlemen supervisory committee. He may have been one of the twenty men sent to live at Croatan for a month in the Spring of 1586, and is the most likely owner of the ring. The other, Abraham Kendall, was one of Sir Francis Drake's ship captains at the time Drake's fleet anchored at Croatan for a few days before taking the Lane Colony back to England. There were no Kendalls associated with the 1587 "Lost Colony" although much speculation on this connection has appeared in the media. The main importance of the ring is that it confirms Cape Creek as the site of Croatan during the period of the Roanoke Voyages and its interaction with at least the 1585-1586 colony.

The processor of this collection is indebted to Professor Emeritus David Sutton Phelps for the information contained in the Historical Note and the Collection Overview.

For security and controlled environmental curation purposes, the signet ring was transferred to the Special Collections Department in Joyner Library on February 1, 2006. All other specimens from the Cape Creek site are curated at the East Carolina University Archaeology Laboratory under Accession No. 1283.

Preliminary Inventory Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Below is material taken from a preliminary inventory and represents content from the collection that is unprocessed.

What is this page? Click here to learn more abou this webpage
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Special Collections Division, J.Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University. The materials described here are physically available in our reading room. To see what's been digitized in this collection, please click on the "View Digitized Objects" tab, or look for hyperlinks in the preliminary inventory
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