Academic journal article Southeastern Archaeology

Sifting the Sands of Time: Geoarchaeology, Culture Chronology, and Climate Change at Squires Ridge, Northeastern North Carolina

Academic journal article Southeastern Archaeology

Sifting the Sands of Time: Geoarchaeology, Culture Chronology, and Climate Change at Squires Ridge, Northeastern North Carolina

Article excerpt

Relict source-bordering dunes and aeolian sand sheets have a widespread occurrence along the Coastal Plain of the Southeast from Georgia to the Carolinas and have been the focus of several geological studiesparticularly in regard to their paleoclimatic implications (e.g., Ivester and Leigh 2003; Ivester et al. 2001; Markewich and Markewich 1994). It is only recently, however, that the archaeological potential of these landforms has been recognized in North Carolina. In particular, archaeological excavations along the Tar River by East Carolina University are recovering data regarding poorly known aspects of the region's chronology, typology, and geoarchaeology (Choate 2011; Daniel 2002; Daniel and Moore 2011; Daniel et al. 2008; McFadden 2009; Moore 2009; Moore and Daniel 2011).

Stratigraphic histories of site use are being constructed for several sites based on sedimentological studies, geophysical data, temporally diagnostic artifacts, and Chronometrie dates. These data suggest multiple phases of aeolian sedimentation along the Tar River, with varying rates of deposition that include archaeological remains that span the Early to Middle Holocene. The lynchpin of this work has been the long-term excavations at the Barber Creek site (Choate 2011; Daniel 2002; Daniel et al. 2008; McFadden 2009; Moore 2009). More recently, additional work at Squires Ridge (31ED365) is providing important data to complement the work at Barber Creek. Here we summarize the results of fieldwork done at Squires Ridge in 2006 and 2009 under the direction of the senior author; this work formed the basis for a dissertation (Moore 2009) and thesis (Caynor 2011). In particular, we present (1) a stratigraphic analysis of the site documenting its cultural components and associated artifact assemblages and (2) an overview of the results of shovel testing designed to determine site boundaries, assess site integrity, and examine the site for potential broad-scale patterning in artifact distributions. To anticipate our results, excavations at Squires Ridge document relatively well stratified Woodland and Archaic period remains associated with Chronometrie dates situated in a sand ridge adjacent to the Tar River. Moreover, we suggest that the sand ridges along the Tar River reflect regional manifestations of Holocene climate change while there associated archaeological remains reflect cultural adaptations to such change.

Field Methods

Squires Ridge occupies the lower paleo-braidplain overlooking the modem incised floodplain of the Tar River in the upper Coastal Plain of North Carolina (Figure 1). The site is situated on a narrow (ca. 80 X 100 m), vegetated sand ridge elevated about 11 m above the Tar River floodplain near its confluence with Lancaster Creek. In 2005, East Carolina University began an archaeological survey of portions of the Tar River (Daniel and Moore 2011; Moore 2009). An examination of LiDAR (light detecting and ranging) images of the river identified the landform at Squires Ridge as having high potential for containing archaeological remains (Figure 2). Subsequent fieldwork, including the judgmental placement of shovel test pits along the sand ridge, confirmed the presence of archaeological materials to a depth of about 1 m below ground surface (Moore 2009).

Shovel Tests

The above fieldwork indicated that significant, stratified archaeological deposits were present at Squires Ridge, but the extent to which these deposits were present along the ridge (or beyond) remained unknown. Hence, mapping and extensive shovel testing of the ridge was done during the summer of 2009 under the direction of the senior author to determine site boundaries and to examine the site for potential broad scale intrasite spatial patterning in artifact distributions. A strategy of close interval shovel testing, similar to that used at the Barber Creek site (Daniel et al. 2008) down river, was adopted to accomplish these goals. Details of this work are reported elsewhere (Caynor 2011) and summarized here. …

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