4 Intriguing Archaeological Preserves of North Carolina

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The environment where the 18th century Tuscarora village of Catechna at the Koon’s Landing site is located. Photo: The Archaeological Conservancy.
The environment where the 18th century Tuscarora village of Catechna at the Koon’s Landing site is located. Photo: The Archaeological Conservancy.

TAC Archaeological Preserves of North Carolina: Part 1 of 2, East Coast Journeys

Midsummer the Conservancy’s Eastern office staff traveled across the State of North Carolina, the southernmost state in the eastern office’s territory. Currently the Conservancy owns and manages five preserves in North Carolina, with the distance between the most western and eastern preserves being ~480 miles. It easily takes a whole week to travel across the state as we stop to check on these 4 Conservancy preserves, meet with archaeologists, and visit sites that are in need of protection.  Together these 4 archaeological preserves give us a window onto much of the history and prehistory of this state.

Our first destination was about an hour from the Atlantic coast. The Conservancy owns two properties here, the Governor Edenhouse and Scotch Hall Preserves.

A view of the Governor Edenhouse Preserve. Photo: The Archaeological Conservancy.
A view of the Governor Edenhouse Preserve, with 18th Century History of North Carolina Hidden below the ground. Photo: The Archaeological Conservancy.
  1. The Governor Edenhouse site contains the remains of a house that was home to two of the first governors of North Carolina, Charles Eden and Gabriel Johnston. Edenhouse manor was completed around 1720 and, in addition to serving as the home of these two governors, was the seat of government for colonial North Carolina. It was destroyed by a fire sometime before 1800. Now this history is hidden beneath the surface of a quiet field. Today the preserve is surrounded by rapidly expanding development along the Chowan River. The site was acquired in 2000 and was the Conservancy’s first acquisition in the state.
The Scotch Hall Preserve, looking over Albemarle Sound. Photo: The Archaeological Conservancy.
The Scotch Hall Preserve, looking over Albemarle Sound. Photo: The Archaeological Conservancy.

2. From the Edenhouse Preserve it is a short drive to the Scotch Hall Preserve, our second smallest preserve in the East measuring less than one third of an acre. This preserve was featured in a previous update looking at the property’s proximity to excavations looking for  North Carolina’s Lost Colony. This Preserve protects the remains of a prehistoric settlement dating to the Early and Middle Woodland periods (between 3000-1000 years ago).

The Scotch Hall Preserve, looking over Albemarle Sound.
The Scotch Hall Preserve, looking over Albemarle Sound. Photo: The Archaeological Conservancy.

Much like Edenhouse, the Scotch Hall site was threatened by residential development that was taking place along the Albemarle Sound. The preserve now sits within a neighborhood and presents the Conservancy with an opportunity to share our mission and promote awareness and understanding of the importance of protecting archaeological sites. Many of our neighbors are considered “site stewards” who help keep an eye on Conservancy properties and alert us if they see anything unusual.

The Historic Museum and Indian Village of Grifton.
The Historic Museum and Indian Village of Grifton.

3. From Merry Hill, we made our way inland to the town of Grifton where we met with Wayne Hardee, president of the Board of the Historic Museum and Indian Village of Grifton. Wayne is familiar with many archaeological sites in the area and has an extensive knowledge of local history. Wayne graciously gave us a tour of the museum which houses exhibits that cover thousands of years of prehistory and history.

Wayne Hardee at the Historic Museum and Indian Village of Grifton.Wayne Hardee at the Historic Museum and Indian Village of Grifton
Wayne Hardee at the Historic Museum and Indian Village of Grifton.
part of the reconstructed village of Catechna. Photo: The Archaeological Conservancy.
part of the reconstructed village of Catechna. Photo: The Archaeological Conservancy.

The museum is accompanied by a small reconstruction of a Tuscarora Native American community known as Catechna to give visitors an idea of how Native Americans in the area lived. This museum contains many interesting artifacts and historic documents and is a worthwhile stop for anyone traveling through Pitt County.

A view of Contentnea Creek from the Koon’s Landing site.
A view of Contentnea Creek from the Koon’s Landing site.

From the museum, Wayne accompanied us to the Koon’s Landing site, a portion of which was acquired by the Conservancy just last year. Archaeologists have found evidence of a Native American settlement here that is thought to be the 18th century Tuscarora village of Catechna. This site was a major Tuscarora community during their war with the colony of North Carolina. An excavation last year on property adjacent to the parcel owned by the Conservancy found evidence of Native American activity dating back thousands of years.

A Cashie Ceramic vessel and shell beads from the Contentnea Creek site.
A Cashie Ceramic vessel and shell beads from the Contentnea Creek site.

4. Our last task before heading west was to drive by the Contentnea Creek Preserve which contains remains of human occupation dating back to 8,000 B.C. (around 10,000 years ago). The main occupation of the site dates to the Late Woodland period. Archaeologists found dog burials, hearths, post molds, storage pits, and more while excavating a portion of the site.

A Cashie Ceramic vessel and shell beads from the Contentnea Creek site.
Stunning Shell beads from the Contentnea Creek site.

From Wilson we set our sights west and headed to the mountains of North Carolina. Check back for the details of the second half of our North Carolina trip in Part 2.

-Kelly Berliner, Eastern Regional Field Representative

American Archaeology Magazine Fall 2016 reports on the Looking for the Lost Colony

North Carolina Preserves: Important Cherokee Valley Town Site -Spikebuck

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