The location of Fort Caroline has been a mystery for historians for a long, long time. That might not be the case anymore.
"For over 150 years people have been saying that Fort Caroline was located east of downtown Jacksonville," says Dr. Fletcher Crowe. Now, he and others think they know where the Fort was, and it isn't Florida.
"Our research indicates the Fort was located at the delta of the Altamaha River," says Crowe, an historian who wrote a presentation on the findings of his team
Crowe tells WSB there are many reasons they believe the Fort, which was settled by the French in 1564, is actually in Georgia.
"The French recorded the words of the Indians who lived near Fort Caroline," says Crowe. His team found that the words were not the language of the tribe near Jacksonville, but, rather, the Indians who lived 70 miles north, near Brunswick, Georgia.
One reason scholars claimed that Fort Caroline was located near Jacksonville is because, they believed, the local Indian tribes surrounding the fort spoke the Timucuan language, the Native American language of Northeast Florida.
Crowe says that turned out not to be the case.
"We showed that the Indians living near the fort spoke a language called Guale," says Crowe. "The Guale speakers lived in the Altamaha area. They did not live near Jacksonville."
The finding, if true, would rewrite history books.
Fort Caroline would be the oldest fortified settlement in North America, older than St. Augustine, older than the Lost Colony of Virginia, and older than Jamestown.
The next step for historians is secure private funding to conduct an archeological dig. With that, Crowe hopes, they'll find proof of the Fort.
He's not prepared to declare that Fort Caroline was in Georgia, but he's ready in case they do find it.
"We always carry a couple of cold bottles of champagne with us, just in case," says Crowe. "Those bottles haven't been opened yet,"