New Acquisitions

Hillsborough Archaeological District | North Carolina
Map of North Carolina showing the location of the Hillsborough Archaeological District

The Hillsborough Archaeological District is located in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, and consists of at least four Native American sites. While artifacts have been found on the property that date back 12,000 years, the most intensive occupations span the time period from A.D. 1000 until the early 1700s, offering an opportunity to understand cultural change in Native communities in the region from just before to after European arrival in North America. The property is situated at a large bend in the Eno River, and is the location where a historic trading path crossed the river near Hillsborough. 

The Saponi Tribe constructed a replica of the Occaneechi village in Hillsborough that is open to the public.
Photo credit: Kelley Berliner / The Archaeological Conservancy

The defined sites on the property are known as Hogue, Wall, Jenrette, and Fredricks. They have been excavated intermittently from the 1930s to the 2010s, with much of the work being undertaken by archaeologists and students from the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. Archaeologist and Professor Emeritus R. P. Stephen Davis Jr. has directed many of the excavations and brought the sites to the Conservancy’s attention. This research has documented the shift from hunter-gatherer cultures to more permanent settlement, as evidenced by thousands of features and artifacts including post holes outlining house sites, pits, and middens.

Additionally, investigations have helped understand how Native Americans experienced contact with European goods and settlement. The Fredricks site was very likely an Occaneechi village visited in 1701 by John Lawson, an English explorer who documented his travels in the backcountry of the Carolinas. The Occaneechi Indians became important trade partners with English traders in Tidewater, Virginia, and moved throughout the southern Virginia and North Carolina piedmont in response to pressures from disease, settlement, and warfare.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students excavated the Jenrette site in 1995.
Photo credit: Steve Davis / University of North Carolina Libraries, Digital Collections Repository

The Occaneechi Band of Saponi Nation consists of descendants of Occaneechi, Saponi, and related Tribes. Tribal members have worked closely with UNC researchers and the Conservancy, and support efforts to continue preservation of the sites.

Tijeras Canyon Village | New Mexico
An aerial view of the Tijeras Canyon site shows a raised area in the center that likely contains the remains of a small farming village dating between A.D. 1200 and 1400. Photo credit: Connor Bowdoin for The Archaeological Conservancy

Last fall, a landowner contacted The Archaeological Conservancy about a property he owned in the Village of Tijeras. He purchased some property for residential development, but later realized there was something of significance on one of the lots. This prompted a call to a local archaeologist who confirmed that there was an archaeological site on the property — identified in the New Mexico classification system as LA 580. The Conservancy closed on the property in May, increasing the number of the Conservancy’s preserves in the southwest region to 182.  

Only a few miles from Tijeras Pueblo, which would have been the central village for the smaller communities scattered throughout the canyon, Tijeras Canyon has been investigated by various educational institutions over the years but were denied permission by the previous landowners to access LA 580. 

Stone alignments visible in the vegetation are remnants of the foundations of 800 year-old structures. Photo credit: The Archaeological Conservancy

Tijeras Canyon was home to the ancestral Tiwa of southern New Mexico who eventually settled at Sandia and Isleta pueblos. Tree-ring samples collected from Tijeras Pueblo reveal that the village was occupied for about 125 years beginning around A.D. 1313. 

The new preserve probably contains the remains of a small farming community that benefited from the seasonal water of Tijeras Arroyo, which is adjacent to this property. Stone alignments hidden beneath the vegetation at LA 580 suggest construction similar to structures at Tijeras Pueblo. These alignments may represent the foundation of a top story of room blocks that once had adobe walls. There are also similar sites in the canyon that contain deeply buried pithouses indicating an earlier occupation dating to as early as A.D. 900. 

These new acquisitions were shared in the Fall 2023 edition of American Archaeology Magazine.  Become a member of The Archaeological Conservancy for your complimentary subscription!

SPRING 2023 | Vol. 27 No. 1