Even after the 1997 discovery of Blackbeard's shipwreck, the mystery surrounding one of history's most notorious pirates still swirls.

As every North Carolina school child knows, the islands and inlets around Beaufort and Morehead City are pirate country. Specifically, this area was once a hideout for the notorious Blackbeard, aka Edward Teach, whose ships terrorized the waters of the Atlantic and the Caribbean in the early 18th century.

It's been nearly 300 years, but locals have not forgotten their hometown rogue. The region boasts a Blackbeard's Point, Blackbeard's House (now called the Hammock House), Blackbeard's Lodge, and a restaurant named after his ship Queen Anne's Revenge. The area of water where he was killed in a battle is known as "Teach's Hole." Gift shops sell kitschy Blackbeard playing cards, mugs, and magnets. Actors perform Blackbeard at parties. His face is painted on Beaufort's water tower, and his ghost is said to haunt the area. Curiosity-seekers have poked around old shipwrecks for decades, hoping to stumble upon his hidden treasures.

Everyone was content with such folklore until 1997, when a group of archaeologists and divers announced they believed they had discovered the wreck of Queen Anne's Revenge sitting calmly under 22 feet of water a short distance from Fort Macon. Divers had stumbled upon the site during a hunt for another vessel and soon realized that the 30-foot mound of cannons, anchors, and wooden debris might be of importance. Artifacts brought up from the wreck - two cannonballs, a brass barrel from a blunderbuss, a cannon touchhole apron, and a brass ship's bell dated 1705 - matched descriptions of what pirates carried onboard, as well as historical documents of shipwrecks in the area. Blackbeard was found at last - and the North Carolina coast was quickly besieged by media from around the world.

Further expeditions in 1997, 1998, and 2000 yielded more archaeological treasures. Pivotal mounts and sights for measuring instruments. A medical syringe. Four tobacco pipes. Approximately two grams of gold flakes. Two dark-green glass bottles that probably held wine or other spirits. Pewter plates, two of which were still attached to one of the cannons. A collection of animal bones, most likely from pigs and cattle that were kept by the pirates for food.

And then there were the weapons. Divers uncovered a variety of small-caliber lead round shot, which could be used in muskets, pistols, or blunderbusses, or bagged and fired from cannons. Two cast-iron spheres packed with gunpowder were determined to be standard military-issue grenades. And cannons six and eight feet long, capable of firing a shot several thousand yards, were also found. Most vessels of the era carried eight to 10 cannons: At least 23 have been discovered on the QAR thus far, including one barrel filled with nasty iron spikes. Nobody said pirates were nice people.