The Central Piedmont is that part of the North Carolina Piedmont drained by the upper portions of the Neuse and Cape Fear Rivers. During the Paleoindian, Archaic, and Early and Middle Woodland periods archaeology of the Central Piedmont is much like the rest of the Piedmont, which is reflected in the content of the Detailed Regional Overview. After A.D. 1000 the local expression of the Piedmont Village Tradition is the Haw River phase.
The Paleoindian is the time of the earliest generally accepted arrival of people in the southeastern United States – about 16,000 years ago, or 14,000 B.C. Although earlier migrations of people into the New World have been hypothesized, currently there is no firm evidence of people anywhere on the continental United States prior to 14,000 B.C.
Our level of understanding of the Paleoindian period across the state is highly uneven, due to both the history of North Carolina archaeology and environmental and geological factors.
Paleoindian in the Southeast is divided into Early, Middle, and Late subperiods.
Spear points of the Early Paleoindian period (14,000 – 9,000 B.C.) are large, fluted lanceolates, very similar to the classic Clovis points of the West. What we know about the earliest inhabitants of North Carolina is based almost entirely on surface finds of these points. Concentrations of Early Paleoindian points have been noted in the Tennessee, Cumberland, and Ohio River valleys, as well as western South Carolina, southern Virginia, and the northern Piedmont of North Carolina.
In the Middle Paleoindian period (9000 – 8500 B.C.) the number of spear points increases considerably and regional variability in spear point forms emerge. The Cumberland, Suwanee, and Simpson point types are thought to be typical of this subperiod. One thing all have in common is a narrowing or “waisting” at the base.
The Late Paleoindian period (8500 – 7900 B.C.) shows increased population growth. Dalton points are the diagnostic Late Paleoindian point type. By the end of the Paleoindian Holocene climatic conditions prevailed and the basic hunting and gathering lifeway that persisted for the next 5000 years was set.
Paleoindian Settlement and Subsistence
Paleoindian settlers in the Southeast found a rapidly changing landscape. Current evidence suggests that many of extinctions of Late Pleistocene megafauna – including the horse, mastodon, and mammoth – were complete by 8500 B.C.
East of the Mississippi River almost no Paleoindian tools have been found with these animals. Environmental differences between the Eastern and Western parts of the continent may have necessitated very different adaptations. By the middle Paleoindian period, if not earlier, the subsistence pattern was probably very similar to that of the Early Archaic period.
Most southeastern Paleoindian sites where more than a single point has been found are related to stone-quarrying activities. This pattern reflects a generalized foraging where groups rarely engaged in subsistence activities that produced recognizable traces in the archaeological record.
Paleoindian in the Piedmont
During the full glacial period (17,000 – 14,500 B.C.) before Paleoindians arrived, the Piedmont had been a boreal forest. As temperatures warmed conifers were replaced by deciduous forests (oak, hickory, walnut, elm, willow, and sugar maple) by 10,500 BC. Continued warming brought new forests of sweet gum, chestnut, red maple, and tupelo gum by 7000 B.C. When Paleoindians first came into the Piedmont winters were harsher and summers cooler than today. For about 1000 years, both people and now-extinct Pleistocene animals co-existed in North Carolina.
Hardaway is the most recognizable site name in North Carolina. Most stone tools found in the Piedmont are made from a fine-grained rhyolite that outcrops in the Uwharrie Mountains. Excavations at the Hardaway site in Stanly County have yielded tons of rhyolite tools and chipping debris dating to the Late Paleoindian and Early Archaic periods. The site was first recognized as important in the 1930s and excavations began after World War II.
The oldest component at Hardaway was represented by Hardaway-Dalton points, Hardaway Side Notched, and Hardaway Blades, which date from 8500 to 7900 B.C. Other stone tools associated with the Hardaway complex, such as unifacial end scrapers and side scrapers, are very similar to those used by Paleoindians. In the Piedmont, roaming bands of hunter-gatherer Paleoindians probably enjoyed a wealth of natural resources that were exploited seasonally.
The Archaic (8000 – 1000 B.C.) is an overarching time period covering over half of the time-span people have lived in North Carolina. This vast time has been explored by finding well-preserved deposits in rock-shelters and stratified, deeply-buried open sites in alluvial floodplains. The Archaic is generally thought of as a period dominated by nomadic, relatively small bands pursuing a hunting and gathering way of life, but there is evidence that some Archaic people settled into larger and more permanent sites relatively early.
From the coast to the mountains, the Archaic began with wandering bands of hunters and gatherers who faced a wide variety of changing environmental conditions. These bands occasionally came together at favored locations along major river valleys, but most of their time was spent in small groups scattered across the landscape foraging for food and raw materials.
Toward the end of the Archaic, large groups began to settle down and live most, if not all year in areas rich in raw material and food resources. This settled life spawned the beginnings of plant domestication and use of pottery, hallmarks of the succeeding Woodland.
The Archaic in the Piedmont
As in the preceding Paleoindian span, much more is known about the Archaic in the Piedmont than either the mountains or the coastal areas. From the 1930s through the 1960s North Carolina sites in the Piedmont were especially important in Archaic research of the eastern United States.
In many parts of the country Archaic research focused on rock shelters, where dry alkaline conditions helped preserve organic remains. But in North Carolina, archaeologists were able to define long chronological sequences by excavating deeply buried, stratified sites in the alluvial floodplains of the Piedmont. In early excavations at buried floodplain sites such as Doerschuk and Lowder’s Ferry along the Yadin-Pee Dee River, and at the nearby Hardaway site, the cultural sequence was established that still defines the Archaic in North Carolina and throughout much of the eastern United States.
The Early Archaic (8000 – 6000 B.C.)
The Early Archaic is generally viewed as the period when native populations began to adapt to an environment created by Holocene climatic conditions – conditions very similar to those of today. The Early Archaic in the Piedmont has been divided into two parts, the Palmer phase (8000 – 7000 B.C.) and the Kirk phase (7000 – 6000 B.C.).
Available subsistence information suggests that Early Archaic plant food collection focused on hickory nuts and acorns. Archaeologists presume that white-tailed deer provided the main source of meat. A dramatic increase in Early Archaic sites across the state suggests an increase in the overall population. Although subsistence strategies on the Piedmont changed little from those of the Late Paleoindian period, Early Archaic tool kits did change. New ways of attaching spears resulted in marked changes in the way points were made.
During the Palmer phase (8000 – 7000 B.C.) small, well-made end scrapers characteristic of the Late Paleoindian period continued to be made. During the Kirk phase (7000 – 6000 B.C.) scrapers were cruder and varied greatly in size and form. Adzes, gravers, drills, and perforators were made for working wood, hides, and animal bones into tools and ornaments. Cobbles were used as hammers and anvils to fashion other tools or crush and grind plant and animal resources. Groundstone tools are rare during the Early Archaic.
Early Archaic inhabitants were organized into small mobile bands (probably numbering 50 – 150 individuals). The North Carolina Piedmont offered a cornucopia of plant and animal foods, so the distribution of food resources may not have determined band territories. Some researchers believe Early Archaic bands ranged over entire drainage systems, while others believe that band territories were related to important stone resources and thus overlapped drainages.
Middle Archaic (6000 – 3000 B.C.)
During the Middle Archaic small kin-based groups moved from place to place pursuing a foraging subsistence strategy. The Middle Archaic in the Piedmont has been divided into three phases of about 1000 years each: Stanly, Morrow Mountain, and Guilford.
Simple but ubiquitous Middle Archaic tool assemblages suggest that new settlement and subsistence patterns (small, kin-related groups moving as units from place to place) formed as a response to climatic changes. This foraging pattern allowed groups to move more easily among the patchy, less predictable resources created under the warmer and drier conditions of the Middle Archaic.
Divisions of the Middle Archaic in the Piedmont are based on distinctive styles of spear points originally identified at Lowder’s Ferry and Doerschuk, sites in Stanly and Montgomery counties respectively. Deeply buried archaeological deposits at these sites, and at the Gaston site in Halifax County, show cultural continuities through the Middle Archaic.
Evidence for use of the atlatl, or spear-thrower, is first seen during the Stanly phase. Crude chipped-stone axes with lateral hafting notches have been recovered with Guilford points at the Gaston site. Other than these two innovations, there does not appear to be much that stands out about Middle Archaic tool assemblages.
Middle Archaic sites are numerous and appear to represent mostly temporary encampments. They occur across the Piedmont landscape without any obvious preference for particular environmental niches.
Late Archaic (3000 – 1000 B.C.)
In the Late Archaic, climatic conditions improved and there was a gradual trend towards more sedentary life. In the North Carolina Piedmont, it is difficult to walk over any plowed field with a nearby source of water and not find evidence of a Late Archaic campsite.
Although Late Archaic sites are numerous in the Piedmont, the full spectrum of Late Archaic culture is not found here. Large shell middens with cooking hearths, sand floors, and human and dog burials are found along the Atlantic coast. These vigorous, socially complex, semipermanent settlements are unlike any before. Similar sites are found along the broad shoals of the Savannah, Tennessee, and Green Rivers in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and Kentucky. It is at sites like these that pottery first appeared and native plants were gradually domesticated.
During the Late Archaic period, people living along the south Atlantic coast from Florida to North Carolina had begun to make fiber-tempered pottery. Stalling series pottery, made by molding lumps of clay and fibrous material into simple vessel forms, was made as early as 2500 B.C. By the beginning of the Woodland in North Carolina, several different ceramic traditions had been established across the state.
The most characteristic artifact of the Late Archaic period is a large, broad-bladed point with a square stem, called Savannah River Stemmed. Savannah River points indicate the Late Archaic period from New York to Florida. Late Archaic peoples also used hammerstones to peck and grind hard rocks into axes with grooves for hafting. They also made a variety of scrapers, drills, and other chipped-stone tools, as well as polished stone weights for atlatls.
During the latter half of the Late Archaic period, hemispherical bowls were pecked and carved from soapstone. Along the coasts of Florida and South Carolina, the first pottery vessels were invented at the end of the Late Archaic period.
Seeds and nuts were ground with stone mortars, and the use of fish nets is attested by notched stone pebbles that served as netsinkers. Squash and gourds were cultivated as early as the third millennium B.C. and, by the end of the Late Archaic period, sunflower, maygrass, and chenopodium were harvested as a precursor to active cultivation.
Three interrelated innovations marked the end of the Archaic and the beginning of the Woodland: pottery-making, semi-sedentary villages, and horticulture. All had their origins in the Archaic but became the norm during Woodland times.
The widespread appearance of pottery-making is viewed as going hand in hand with an increasing reliance on seed crops and more permanent settlement. Domestication of early cultigens laid the groundwork for later acceptance of tropical cultigens. Corn was not widely grown until after A.D. 700 and did not become an important food crop in many areas until after A.D. 1000. With the introduction of beans around A.D. 1200, the eastern agricultural triad of corn, beans, and squash was completed.
In North Carolina, the Woodland is divided into Early, Middle, and Late periods. Along the coast and through much of the Piedmont, the Late Woodland continues until Contact, while in the Appalachian Summit, Western Foothills, and the Southern Piedmont, Mississippian and Mississippian-influenced societies developed after A.D. 1000.
The Woodland cultures of the North Carolina Piedmont were only marginally influenced by cultural traditions elsewhere in the eastern United States. The rich and elaborate Hopewell and Swift Creek cultures that influenced wide areas of the Southeast had little impact on cultural developments in the Piedmont. And the powerful Mississippian chiefdoms that later dominate most of the Southeast were only able to penetrate the southern fringe of the Piedmont.
Piedmont Tradition Early and Middle Woodland Periods (1000 B.C. – A.D. 800)
Although we know relatively little about their origins during the Early Woodland period, cultures throughout most of the Piedmont steadily evolved along an unbroken continuum from about A.D. 1000 until the time of first contacts with Europeans. Subsistence seems to have remained evenly balanced between crop production and wild plant and animal resources. Social distinctions were based primarily on age and sex. Egalitarian Woodland societies were woven together by kinship and leadership roles were achieved rather than ascribed.
Only in the southern Piedmont is the Piedmont Village Tradition broken by the spread of the South Appalachian Mississippian tradition into the Yadkin-Pee Dee River Valley.
The stratigraphic and stylistic relationships among various ceramic types during the first half of the Woodland period are still unclear. Badin, Yadkin, Vincent, and Clements series ceramics are guides to occupations of the Piedmont during this time.
Aquatic resources are important during this time and a wide variety of mammals and birds were eaten. Several species of weedy plants, including maygrass, knotweed, goosefoot, and sunflower, although no direct evidence of these practices have yet been found in the Piedmont.
During this time the bow and arrow completely replaces the atlatl.
Badin Phase (ca. 500 B.C. ?)
The Badin phase is named for the small Stanly County town. Near Badin, at the Doerschuk site, the Badin ceramic series was found in a soil zone overlying the Late Archaic Savannah River level.
At the Doerschuk site in Stanly County, the Badin ceramic series was found in a soil zone overlying the Late Archaic Savannah River level. Badin vessels, well-made and tempered with sand, were simple in form, consisting of straight-sided jars with conical bottoms. Vessels were stamped with cord-wrapped and fabric-wrapped paddles. Badin ceramics appear to be related to the Early Woodland Deep Creek wares of North Carolina’s coastal region.
In addition to the abrupt introduction of ceramics, an entirely different form of projectile point was thought to be associated with the Badin Phase. Crudely flaked, triangular “Badin” points represent quite a departure from the large, stemmed spear points of the Savannah River phase.
Based primarily on radiocarbon dates for the succeeding Yadkin phase, archaeologists think that the Badin phase must date to around 500 B.C. One thing that is surprising in the North Carolina Piedmont is the small number of Badin and Yadkin phase sites compared to the relatively large number of Late Archaic Savannah River phase sites.
Otherwise, we know very little about aboriginal life styles during the Badin Phase. Probably very little changed from the Late Archaic period except for the gradual incorporation of the bow and arrow and ceramic containers. Technology was still primarily adapted to a hunting-and-gathering way of life.
Yadkin Phase (ca. 300 B.C. – ca. A.D. 800?)
The Yadkin ceramic series, which is thought to follow after Badin ceramics, was also defined at Doerschuk site. Yadkin is similar to Badin except for being tempered with crushed quartz. Cord-wrapped and fabric-wrapped surfaces persist, but new kinds of surface treatments – check stamping, linear check stamping, and simple stamping made with carved wooden paddles – are added. These treatments tie Yadkin phase pottery to the Early Woodland Deptford wares common in Georgia in South Carolina. Yadkin projectile points are typically large triangular forms that resemble Badin points but are more finely flaked.
Radiocarbon dates for Yadkin and Yadkin-like ceramics generally fall between 290 B.C. and A.D. 60, so it is unclear whether Badin ceramics predate Yakin in all areas of the Piedmont. Some Yadkin sites may have been occupied for relatively long periods of time and lasted until the latter part of the phase, around A.D. 500.
Yadkin phase sites occur more frequently than Badin phase sites, especially in the southern Piedmont and the South Carolina Coastal Plain. Still, evidence relating to the way Yadkin people lived are rare. As Early Woodland research continues across the Piedmont, we will probably see more and more variability in the early ceramic traditions and find that what holds true for one region may not hold true for another.
Piedmont Tradition Late Woodland Period (A.D. 800 – 1600)
The Late Woodland across the Piedmont begins with the Uwharrie phase. After A.D. 1100, major cultural changes took place as regional manifestations of the Piedmont Village Tradition emerged. The local expression of the Piedmont Village Tradition in the northwestern Piedmont is the Donnaha phase.
Cultures throughout most of the Piedmont steadily evolved along an unbroken continuum from about A.D. 1000 until the time of first contacts with Europeans. Subsistence seems to have remained evenly balanced between crop production and wild plant and animal resources. Social distinctions were based primarily on age and sex. Egalitarian Woodland societies were woven together by kinship and leadership roles were achieved rather than ascribed.
Even though there were no sharp breaks or glaring innovations with the beginning of the Late Woodland period in Piedmont North Carolina, major cultural changes took place between A.D. 1100 and 1600 as regional manifestations of the Piedmont Village Tradition emerged. This was a time of population consolidation and the beginning of intertribal conflicts. In much, but not all, of the Piedmont, larger villages surrounded by stockades protected inhabitants. This was probably the result of increased agricultural production and efficiency, and competition for good agricultural lands.
Establishing linkages between archaeological complexes and specific tribal groups is often difficult and sometimes impossible. There is, however, a marked increase in the diversity of the archaeological record throughout the Piedmont during the latter half of the Late Woodland period. Much of that diversity no doubt coincides with ethnic and tribal differences taking shape at this time. The Dan River and Saratown phases probably represent people ancestral to the Sara Indians. Along the Eno River, Hillsboro phase may be related to the Eno, Shakori, and Occaneechi tribes. Further south, in the Haw River, the Haw River, Hillsboro, and Mitchum phases are possibly linked to the Sissipahaw Indians. The Gaston phase may represent the Occaneechis, Tutelos, and Saponis.
The southern Piedmont saw the arrival of the Pee Dee culture – mound builders with a highly stratified and politically complex society. Pee Dee culture shares more traits with the Pisgah phase of Appalachian Summit than the Siouan cultures of the Piedmont. Both were part of the South Appalachian Mississippian cultural tradition.
Uwharrie Phase (A.D. 800-1200)
The Uwharrie phase, with sites throughout central North Carolina, is the “mother” of all succeeding phases of the Piedmont Village Tradition. Although named for the southern Piedmont, Uwharrie phase sites are distributed throughout central North Carolina. Uwharrie phase is the “mother” of all succeeding phases of the Piedmont Village Tradition.
The relatively small Uwharrie villages are more sedentary than during the preceding Woodland periods. Increased reliance on domesticated plant foods is reflected in the archaeobotanical record, the large subterranean storage facilities, and the phase’s typical large conical jars.
Hunting, gathering, and fishing were still the mainstays of Uwharrie subsistence, but garden crops, including corn, became important, particularly towards the end of the Uwharrie phase.
Uwharrie pottery continued in the same basic tradition as the Badin, Yadkin, Vincent, and Clements styles, although vessel surfaces were finished with a coarse, net-like material and Uwharrie potters began to decorate their pots with crudely incised parallel lines.
Burials, placed in simple oval pits, were sometimes adorned with shell beads and other ornaments, and placed in cemetery-like areas away from the main habitation area.
From this widespread pattern of Uwharrie adaptation emerged the riverine-focused, nucleated settlements that characterized the last half of the Piedmont Village Tradition.
Haw River Phase (A.D. 1000 – 1400)
Haw River phase sites are restricted to the Central Piedmont. The Hogue and Wall sites, on the Eno River near Hillsboro, demonstrate the transition from small scattered settlements to compact, palisaded villages during this phase.
At the Hogue site, continuity between the Uwharrie and early Haw River ceramics can be seen. The most popular vessel form was a large undecorated, conical-shaped jar with a straight or slightly constricted neck. Most often the surfaces of these vessels were finished with a net-wrapped paddle. These vessels are ancestral to the Haw River series pottery of the latter half of the Haw River phase.
Most Late Haw River phase settlements are small dispersed households. These are frequently found along ridges and knolls bordering narrow floodplains of secondary streams.
Typical pit features are fairly large cylindrical storage facilities. Evidence of agriculture, primarily maize, but also beans, squash, and sunflower seeds, has been found in all Haw River phase storage facilities. Additionally charred fragments of acorns and hickory nuts, and animal bones are found. Although domesticated plants began to be an important food, wild resources continued to be used.
Hillsboro Phase (A.D. 1400 – 1600)
Hillsboro phase sites in the Central Piedmont follow the Haw River phase. Ceramic differences strongly suggest that the early Hillsboro phase population moved here from outside the area, much like Pee Dee in the Southern Piedmont.
Although small, scattered settlements similar to the Haw River phase continued to dot the landscape during the Hillsboro phase, a few sites dating to the first half of the phase represent compact, nucleated villages with relatively large populations. The best example of this kind of community is the Wall site on the Eno River at Hillsborough.
The Wall site covers approximately 1.25 acres, of which one-fourth has been excavated. These excavations uncovered seven circular houses that average almost 35 feet in diameter. Two smaller “special purpose” structures that may have served as cribs or sheds have also been identified. Eight burials and seventy-three other pit features have been excavated. Five stockade alignments surround the ring of houses. The Wall site was probably occupied by a population of 100 to 150 people for less than twenty years in about the middle of the fifteenth century.
The mixed subsistence base that developed during the Haw River phase continued during the early Hillsboro phase. The rich bottomlands of the Eno were planted in fields of corn, beans, and squash, and wild plants and animals provided variety to the diet.
Although continuity can be seen between Haw River and Hillsboro phase subsistence practices, discontinuity characterizes the two ceramic assemblages. Only about 1.5 percent of the pottery from the Wall site displayed attributes characteristic of the Haw River phase. Instead, almost 75 percent of the Hillsboro phase pottery had simple-stamped surfaces. The remainder were check-stamped or plain, suggesting that early Hillsboro phase populations moved into the Eno valley from outside the area.
Simple stamped pottery typical of that at the Wall site was found alongside net-impressed and complicated stamped pottery at other late Hillsboro phase sites. Net-impressed sherds represented the last gasp of the ceramic tradition that began during the Uwharrie and Haw River phases. The complicated stamped sherds are similar to the Caraway series found at the Poole site in Randolph County, indicating increased contact with adjacent regions
Most of the Wall site burials were placed in what archaeologists call shaft-and-chamber pits, formed by digging a cylindrical shaft and then a tunnel-like chamber off to one side at the bottom. All the burials were oriented with their heads pointing in an eastward direction and usually located just within or just outside houses. Grave offerings consisted of small clay pots that probably contained food remains. Often shell beads were sewn on burial garments or strung as jewelry. Engraved shell gorgets were sometimes around the necks of children.
Late Hillsboro phase sites show more affinities to the earlier Haw River phase settlements. The resident population seems to have dispersed and there is no evidence of stockades. These later, more intensely occupied sites are found along narrow valley margins or adjacent uplands of small tributary streams.
The time of contact between Indians living in North Carolina and Europeans arriving from Spain and England varied considerably across the state. The expedition of Hernando de Soto passed through western North Carolina in the spring of 1540. Pardo’s expeditions into the same areas came less than 30 years later. The first English attempts at settlement in northeastern North Carolina came about 20 years after that, starting in 1584. But it was not until after about 1650, when English explorers, traders, and settlers came from Tidewater Virginia, that North Carolina’s Indians felt the brunt of the European presence on their land.
Accordingly, the beginnings of these arrivals do not necessarily herald the beginnings of significant changes in the histories of North Carolina’s tribes. Overall, however, this was a time of sweeping and often devastating change.
Contact in the Central Piedmont (A.D. 1600 – 1710)
In the latter half of the seventeenth century North Carolina’s Indians felt the brunt of the European presence in their land. The initial advance of Europeans into the backcountry of North Carolina came from Tidewater Virginia, not coastal North Carolina. In the central Piedmont, a series of sites have been excavated from this time period illustrating the effects of these contacts.
Starting in 1983, the University of North Carolina’s second Siouan Project succeeded in finding sites of the Siouan tribes who interacted with the European explorers, traders, and settlers who moved into the North Carolina backcountry during the last half of the seventeenth century and early eighteenth century.
In the Central Piedmont three phases provide a detailed chronology of changes during the Contact period.
The Mitchum Phase (A.D. 1600 – 1670)
The Mitchum phase is known from a single site located in Chatham county adjacent the Haw River. The phase is attributed to the Sissipahaw Indians in the early part of the 17th-century. Trade artifacts at Mitchum site indicate that the site was occupied around 1650 and abandoned before John Lawson visited this location in 1701.
The Mitchum site was a small stockaded village of less than 1.5 acres. The only house found was oval with posts set in individual holes. It was probably covered in bark or skins. Storage pits, smudge pits, hearths, and two graves were found. Glass beads and brass ornaments, obtained through indirect trade with the English, were place with the dead.
Pottery of the Mitchum phase developed out of the preceding Hillsboro phase and is very similar to the pottery of the contemporary Jenrette site on the Eno River. Subsistence practices changed little as a consequence of contact with Europeans. Peach pits provide the only evidence of European influence on the Mitchum phase diet.
Milder forms of non-native tobacco, perhaps from the West Indies, may have been an important commodity in the trade network with the English. Finely made clay pipes resembling English kaolin pipes begin showing up in relatively large numbers on sites from this time, suggesting a change in smoking behavior after 1650.
European trade items were obtained in limited number and variety through indirect trade. A few gunflints, but no firearm parts were found. Knives, hatchets, hoes, and other iron tools apparently were not available. The trade inventory consisted mainly of ornaments.
The Jenrette Phase (A.D. 1600 – 1680)
The Jenrette Phase is defined by information from a single archaeological site. The Jenrette site is located near Hillsborough along the Eno River, right next to the Fredricks site, and near the Wall and Hogue sites. Jenrette may be the remains of a Shakori Indian village visited by John Lederer in 1670.
Jenrette’s stockaded village covered one-half acre, with an open central plaza. Only two of the numerous houses which originally surrounded the plaza were clearly identified by remaining wall patterns. A small number of burials in the village area suggests that European diseases had not yet affected the Eno River population.
Unlike most houses found on sites in the Piedmont, the Jenrette structures were built by placing wall posts in long trenches rather than individual post homes. Wall trenches were also used at the slightly later Fredricks site.
Most of the Jenrette features were storage pits and large food preparation facilities identified as roasting pits or earth ovens. Large shallow roasting pits like the “feasting pits” described for the late Hillsboro Phase were usually located near the stockade.
The ceramic assemblage from the Jenrette site is very similar to the Mitchum Phase. Both comprise the Jenrette ceramic series. However, it is believed that the Jenrette pottery was made by Shakori, not Sissipahaw, potters. Although similar to the ancestral Hillsboro series, Jenrette series vessels are heavier, have thicker walls, and are more crudely made.
Small triangular arrowpoints, as well as other stone tools (drills, perforators, gravers, spokeshaves, and scrapers, as well as groundstone celts, chipped-stone hoes, and milling stones) continue to be used during Jenrette phase. Bone and shell tools also persist and resemble the preceding Hillsboro Phase. These traditional tools were soon to be replaced in the ensuing Fredricks Phase.
Subsistence remains at Jenrette are very similar to samples from sites occupied just prior to European contact. No significant changes in practices or diet can be seen. White-tailed deer, fish, acorns, hickory nuts, and walnuts were important wild foods, while corn, beans, bottle gourds, and sumpweed were cultivated. Peaches were the only non-native food harvested.
The inhabitants of Jenrette buried their dead in both shaft-and-chamber and simple straight-sided pits. Associated artifacts (primarily small glass beads sewn on garments) reflect the beginnings of trade with the English. There is a lack of epidemic diseases during the Jenrette phase.
The increased popularity of pipe smoking seen in the Mitchum Phase is also seen in Jenrette Phase. Numerous terracotta pipes were used alongside traditional forms. Fine rouletted designs, like those decorations found on “Tidewater” pipes throughout the Middle Atlantic region, are seen on Jenrette terracotta pipes. This style of pipe is also found on sites dating to the Middle Saratown, Late Saratown, and Fredricks Phases. They are an excellent horizon marker for the 1650 to 1700 period.
The Fredricks Phase (A.D. 1680 – 1710)
The Fredricks phase, along the Eno River near Hillsborough, is based on what appears to be the remains of Occaneechi Town, home of the Occaneechis after they moved from the Roanoke valley in 1676. The town was visited by John Lawson in 1701.
This small stockaded village of no more than ten or twelve houses was completely excavated between 1983 and 1986. Probably fewer than seventy-five individuals lived in the village for less than a decade, but three separate cemeteries were found here. The small size of the settlement and the many graves indicates a very high mortality rate. The separate cemeteries may indicate different ethnic groups were being forced to band together as a result of depopulation.
Trade between the Piedmont Indians and the English intensified during the last quarter of the 17th century. Grave goods left with the Occaneechi burials include knives, tobacco pipes, hoes, kettles, and guns, as well as the beads and ornaments that had been common during the earlier Contact Phases. Graves were no longer placed in and around dwellings and were dug with metal tools. Perhaps partially as a consequence of this technological change, traditional shaft-and-chamber graves were replaced with rectangular, straight-sided graves aligned in three cemeteries outside the stockade.
Fredricks Phase pottery is more closely related to Hillsboro series pottery than the Jenrette series. Two pottery types are present at Fredricks. Fredricks Plain is associated with a variety of vessel forms, while Fredricks Check Stamped is almost exclusively cooking vessels. The homogeneity of the Fredricks series suggests that all the pottery was made by one or two potters.
Although the Fredricks Phase represents a time of dramatic disruption, a surprising degree of continuity is reflected in the subsistence data. The peltry trade and the introduction of European tools and trinkets seems to have had only minimal impact on the day-to-day subsistence of the Occaneechis. Only one bone each of a horse and a pig attest to the European presence and the only European plants are watermelon and peaches.
Stone tools continued to be used alongside European-made weapons and cutting tools. The Occaneechis do not appear to have been heavily engaged in working bone or shell. The shell ornaments recovered, including gorgets, columella beads, disk beads, wampum, and runtees, were probably manufactured by groups along the Atlantic Ocean.
Despite the drastic population loss that occurred after Contact, North Carolina today is the home of the largest Native American population east of the Mississippi River. The robust cultural diversity seen in the archaeological record of the last 12,000 years survives today in the tribal traditions of North Carolina’s native peoples.