Jordan’s Landing (Bertie County)
Jordan’s Landing (31BR7) is a site located in Bertie County, along the Roanoke River near Williamston. The village is on a sandy loam ridge and is about three acres in size. The shape of the village was oval with a ditch on the north and west sides that was created when dirt was dug out to create a bank for the side of the village’s palisade. Jordan’s Landing contains a Middle Woodland component that was occupied by Mount Pleasant Phase people, as well as a more robust Late Woodland component, occupied by Cashie Phase people.
History of Excavations
Excavations at Jordan’s Landing have occurred sporadically since 1971 under the direction of Dr. David S. Phelps of East Carolina University. The majority of these excavations have been in areas that date to the Cashie phase, which is the name for the Late Woodland period in the Tuscarora homeland (A.D. 800-1650). No house patterns have been found, but there have been many pit features, hearths, and burials. The pits and hearths are concentrated on the west and north areas of the site, while burials are located on the southeastern side of the village. The site also contains a large ditch that would have represented a place where dirt was dug to bank against the surrounding village stockade. The resulting ditch became the village dump and was filled with refuse over time.
Who were the Mount Pleasant Phase People?
Excavations at Jordan’s Landing uncovered a Mount Pleasant burial, consisting of a flexed burial found along with seven small triangular arrow points. The Mount Pleasant Phase represents the Middle Woodland period in the northern coastal region. During this time period, sites are found along major streams and estuaries, as well as along the coast. Coastal sites are represented by shell middens and appear to be seasonal camps where people gathered collected shellfish and fished. People also continue to hunt for deer, raccoon, rabbit, turkey, and turtles, but that was secondary to coastal resources. The shell middens from this time are quite large, but this is probably due to long periods of use, rather than being used by large numbers of people. We think that small groups of individuals, probably an extended family, came back to the same area, adding to the same shell middens over time. This use not only happened during the Middle Woodland, but continued in to the Late Woodland, too.
Who were the Cashie Phase People?
The term Cashie Phase is both a regionally and time-specific term. Regionally, it refers to the northern region of the inner Coastal Plain. When Europeans began exploring this area, Iroquois-speaking Tuscaroras lived in the area from the Neuse River to the North Carolina-Virginia state line. Time-wise, Cashie phase refers to the Late Woodland (A.D. 800-1650) in this Tuscarora homeland. The Cashie phase ends at the time of European colonization, which resulted in dramatic changes to the Tuscarora.
Base on excavations done by East Carolina University, the people living at Jordan’s Landing had a mixed subsistence economy that was based on agriculture, hunting, gathering, and fishing. Sites like Jordan’s Landing were probably occupied year-round, given that this area has some of the richest agricultural soils in the state. Native people settled in small villages, generally located on the sandy loam ridges by major rivers or near the confluence of small streams. In addition to these settlements, there may also have been seasonal winter hunting camps.
John E. Byrd examined the faunal material from four features at the site as part of his Master’s thesis. This included Feature 1, which is the ditch around the north and west side of the village that served as a borrow pit for banking the palisade. Before the palisade was constructed, the ditch was filled in with village waster. The second context is Feature 21, a small circular pit features on the east side of the site. Originally it was a cooking pit that was filled in with meal remains when it was no longer in use and contained primarily mussel shell and fish. Byrd also examined Features 41 and 43, hearths on the west side of the site near the ditch. Like the cooking pit, this was quickly filled with refuse once it was no longer in use. Based on these features, Byrd was able to show that Cashie people hunted and consumed a wide range of animal species. Seasonality evidence from deer, raccoon, and beaver show that the village was occupied during all times of the year. All four features analyzed have relatively few small mammal remains and have more large mammal than medium mammal remains, largely as a result of deer. The primary type of bird recovered was turkey, while turtles included snapping turtles, box turtles, and cooters/sliders. A wide range of fish were identified, including sturgeon, bowfin, gar, catfish, perch, bass, sunfish, redhorse, American eel, Atlantic croaker, and herrings. A large amount of freshwater mussels were also recovered.
As mentioned above, Cashie phase burials have also been found. Cashie burials are technically considered ossuaries because they have the remains of more than one individual. However, normally when we think of ossuaries, we think of the large ossuaries of coastal Algonkians that contain the remains of many people and likely represent a multi-family community. In contrast, Cashie ossuaries usually have remains originating from two to five people. Once the flesh was removed, people’s remains were bundled together and buried, and probably represented family units. Cashie-phase people also often buried family members with marginella shell beads. Sometimes these were strings of beads, other times they seem to be randomly scattered within burials.
Byrd, John E.
1997 • Tuscarora Subsistence Practices in the Late Woodland Period: The Zooarchaeology of the Jordan’s Landing Site. North Carolina Archaeological Council Publication, No. 27.
Ward, Trawick H., and R. P. Stephen Davis, Jr.
1998 • Time Before History: The Archaeology of North Carolina. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill.