Back On The Road: Visiting 2 Virginia Preserves of Prehistory

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Not a sign of Spring at the Belmont Preserve
Not a sign of Spring at the Belmont Preserve

Spring has arrived in the East, and with it comes increased travel to check on current preserves and potential new acquisitions. I headed to Central Virginia hoping that the weather would cooperate; it did not! While much of the trip was spent dealing with late spring snow, it did not prevent me from trekking out to some of our preserves.

The first stop was the Belmont Preserve. This preserve contains the remains of a Late Woodland Village dating from AD 1200-1450 that is identified as being part of the Dan River Phase. Villages from this period are marked by an increase in size with houses surrounding a central plaza, and are often surrounded by a stockade. At Belmont the village was surrounded by a double palisade that was 300 feet in diameter, and contained houses that were 20 feet in diameter. Numerous pit features and dog burials have been found at the site.

Belmont Preserve under an early spring blanket of Snow.
Belmont Preserve under an early spring blanket of snow.

The Belmont site was acquired in 2010. It is located in a quiet residential area and everything was as it should be when I visited. Conservancy staff conducts these periodic visits to preserves to make sure the sites are not being disturbed or treated improperly. This is done in addition to relying on our nationwide site steward program. Site stewards are often former property owners, neighbors, or archaeologists who help keep an eye on Conservancy preserves and contact regional staff if they note any questionable activity. With a small nonprofit staff the Conservancy relies heavily on our stewards to be our eyes and ears on the ground!

 

Ceramics recovered from the Bryant site during previous excavations.
Ceramics recovered from the Bryant site during previous excavations.

 

After finishing at Belmont I headed to the Bryant Preserve, another Dan River Village the Conservancy has protected. It spans the Middle and Late Woodland Periods, dating from AD 600-1450. Based on excavations at the site it is thought that the Late Woodland population at Bryant was approximately 200 people.

 

The Bryant Preserve, a Dan River Village , dating to the woodland period.
The Bryant Preserve, a Dan River Village , dating to the woodland period.

The Bryant Preserve

The Belmont and Bryant Preserves are in similar geographic settings, and with a fresh coat of snow they are hard to differentiate from one another in photographs.

The Bryant Preserve waits for spring under a new snow.
The Bryant Preserve waits for spring under a new snow.

After checking on our Central Virginia preserves I stopped in at Longwood University to meet with Dr. Brian Bates, a professor and Director of the Dr. James W. Jordan Archaeology Field School. We had a chance to discuss some of his current research and the curriculum they have in place to train students using the archaeological equipment they will encounter in the field. The program exposes undergraduates to the techniques of field work and many more advanced imaging and mapping technologies.

I finished the trip with visits to site owners who may be interested in working with the Conservancy to permanently protect archaeological sites located on their properties. By the end of these visits I had made it all the way out to Cape Charles on Virginia’s Eastern Shore—as you can tell from the below image the weather had changed quite a bit!

Cape Charles and the first signs of Spring.
Cape Charles and the first signs of Spring.

Cape Charles

These types of trips are a large part of what we do at the Conservancy. They are the best means for checking on Preserves, finding new sites, and meeting with other archaeologists in the region. Now that the weather is starting to improve in the East we will find ourselves out on the road much more often.

~Kelley Berliner, Eastern Regional Field Representative

Read more about our preserve road trips in  4 Intriguing Archaeological Preserves of North Carolina and Searching for Endangered Sites of North Carolina

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