A Tour Of Western North Carolina’s Rich Archaeology & History

SUMMER TRAVEL SPECIAL: There’s much to see in this part of the Tar Heel state of North Carolina

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Cherokee lifestyles and history are on display at Oconaluftee Indian Village. Credit: EBCI DESTINATION MARKETING
Cherokee lifestyles and history are on display at Oconaluftee Indian Village. Credit: EBCI DESTINATION MARKETING

Summer 2018: By Andrea Cooper.

We rounded a corner in the Rankin Museum of American Heritage in Ellerbe, North Carolina (population 986), when my husband burst out laughing with delight.  Behind glass cases is a wide-ranging collection of arrowheads, blades, scrapers, and other ancient tools, including some discovered on a nearby dig in the Yadkin-Pee Dee River basin, dating to 10000 B.C. The discovery reminded me that you never know what archaeological or historical treasures you may find in even modest circumstances, and that people have lived in my adopted state a long, long time.  We took a driving trip in the western half of the state, stretching more than 250 miles from the Piedmont to the Blue Ridge Mountains, to learn more about the area’s archaeology and history.

Our journey started in our hometown of Charlotte, a city with plenty of good restaurants and craft breweries, pro sports teams, and a thriving arts scene.  The rap on Charlotte is that it’s fond of marginalizing its history and demolishing historic buildings, but two fine history museums are well worth a stop. On the grounds of the Charlotte Museum of History, the Hezekiah Alexander Homesite boasts a two-story stone house built in 1774, along with a reconstructed log kitchen and springhouse. Period furniture suggests how the home might have looked when some of Alexander’s ten children played there.  The Levine Museum of the New South considers Charlotte and the South post-Civil War, with images, video clips, music, oral histories, and more than 1,000 artifacts showing the region’s dramatic changes over time.  Visitors can go inside a one-room tenant farmer’s house, or sit at a re-created lunch counter and hear stories from sit-in leaders who fought for equal rights in Greensboro, Charlotte, and Rock Hill, South Carolina, in the 1950s and ‘60s.

Read More in our SUMMER 2018 Issue of American Archaeology, Vol. 21 No. 1.             Browse Content of this Issue: SUMMER 2018.

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