Regular readers of my blog will remember the infamous scene in America Unearthed S01E07 “Mystery of Roanoke” when show host Scott Wolter and Roanoke Colony expert Scott Dawson got into a heated argument over the Dare Stones, a set of hoax stones supposedly detailing the fate of the Roanoke colonists. Dawson tried to present a scientific perspective on the Roanoke Colony and its archaeology, but Wolter insisted that Dawson was closed-minded for failing to accept Wolter’s ideas without proof.
“You have a pretty compelling story,” Wolter said. “You’ve got documents, you have artifacts. And yet we have the Dare Stones that stand in conflict with that.”
Scott Dawson spoke out about the America Unearthed Dare Stones controversy in an interview with his twin brother, Ryan Dawson, posted this week on YouTube. (Full disclosure: I am mentioned in the video, and Ryan contacted me to share the video.) Because of the overlapping names, to keep things clear, in this post I will abbreviate Scott Dawson as SD, Ryan Dawson as RD, and Scott Wolter as SW. In the interest of fairness, I also need to point out that RD is highly opinionated and produces politically-charged content that frequently focuses on the failures of corporate media; he can be a bit intemperate in his language and some readers may find some of his videos offensive.
In the interview, SD explains that Committee Films, the production company behind America Unearthed, reached out to his wife in order to request an interview about the history and archaeology of Croatoan, the island now known as Hatteras. Instead, SD says that in an eight-hour shoot, SW and his producer focused exclusively and relentlessly on the Dare Stones, which SD described as a “known hoax” that emerged a short time after a 1937 play, The Lost Colony, created the myth of the lost colony. The Dare Stones coincidentally were said to have been inscribed by one of the lead characters in the play.
“I was just completely dumbfounded that they wanted to, just stayed with that, and anything that didn’t fit that agenda was just edited off the show, and it was horrible,” SD said.
SD said that he spent a significant portion of the time explaining the island’s archaeology off camera “because I didn’t want to embarrass the host,” SW. “I didn’t want to make him look stupid.” SD further stated that he was never told that the program would be about the Dare Stones, and he and his brother feel that Committee Films arranged the interview under false pretences. When SD refused to discuss the Dare Stones, which he believed (rightly) to be false and therefore misleading to present as true, SW became insistent and badgered SD to discuss the stones, eventually claiming, in a scene shot months afterward but made to look like it occurred only hours later, that he was “pissed off” by SD.
SD stated that SW admitted to being unfamiliar with the literature on Roanoke and to never having read the primary sources related to the lost colony, a apparent contradiction to the image portrayed in the episode, where SW discusses various historical sources. All of SW’s research was from secondary sources, according to SD.
“I wasn’t going to discredit myself,” SD said. “I’ve dedicated a good portion of my life to studying this, and I’m not going discredit all of it by supporting something that’s a known hoax.”
SD stated that besides SW, he has never met anyone who believed in the Dare Stones among the thousands he has discussed Roanoke issues with.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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