In 1587, 115 men, women, and children arrived at Roanoke Island on the coast of North Carolina to establish the first English colony in the New World. But when its leader returned to Roanoke from a resupply mission, the settlers had vanished, leaving behind only a single clue—a “secret token” etched into a tree.
What happened to the colonists? That question has consumed historians, archeologists, and amateur sleuths ever since. In The Secret Token, Andrew Lawler sets out on a quest to determine the fate of the settlers, finding fresh leads as he encounters a host of characters obsessed with resolving the enigma. In the course of his journey, Lawler also discovers how the Lost Colony came to haunt our national consciousness.
Incisive and absorbing, The Secret Token offers a new understanding not just of the Lost Colony and its fate, but of how its absence continues to define—and divide—America.
Andrew Lawler is author of two books, The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke and Why Did the Chicken Cross the World: The Epic Saga of the Bird that Powers Civilization. As a journalist, he has written more than a thousand newspaper and magazine articles from more than two dozen countries. His byline has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Geographic, Smithsonian, and many others. He is contributing writer for Science and contributing editor for Archaeology. Andrew’s work has appeared several times in The Best of Science and Nature Writing.
“The ‘Lost Colony’ of Roanoke is one of this country’s most enduring mysteries. Andrew Lawler turns Roanoke into one of our history’s best stories, recounting not only the fascinating, little-known history of the colony itself but that of the incredible swirl of historians, archaeologists, hoaxers, actors, priests, Native Americans, and experts on arcane subjects who have been caught up in the quest to find it. A tale of cock-eyed historical obsession, The Secret Token is also a serious look at America’s confused ideas about itself.”—Charles Mann, New York Times bestselling author of The Wizard and the Prophet and 1491