IN SEARCH OF SWIFT CREEK; an Archaeology Team Unearths the Culture's 1,500-Year-Old Pottery

Article excerpt


ST. SIMONS ISLAND - It looked like just a little red stone encrusted with dirt. But Carolyn Rock, president of the South Georgia Archaeological Research Team, knew it was something more.

The piece was flat on two sides, something that does not occur naturally. It was also made of clay, a substance that only becomes rigid if fire-hardened.

The team had found a piece of nearly 1,500-year-old Native American pottery.

"It was made the same way as a flowerpot is made today," Rock said. "When Indians fired their pottery, it was not as high of a temperature. But it was still high enough to stay hard in the ground and not turn back into clay."

The professional archaeologists were digging Saturday at St. Simons' Oglethorpe Park, looking for traces of a Native American culture called the Swift Creek.

They were an elusive community that lived on St. Simons between A.D. 500 and 800. Archaeologists recognize the culture by the elaborate paddle-stamped ceramics they made.

Team members dug at Oglethorpe Park because they believed it was once a portion of the old Shadman Farm, a site where people had found Swift Creek burial items in the early 20th century.

After a series of test holes, team members turned up fewer shards of pottery than they had hoped for. But team archaeologist Fred Cook said several important mysteries were solved.

"We now know that this was the site we thought it was, the Shadman Farm," he said.

Most shovel tests of the soil turned up traces of pottery and oyster shells, both indications of Native American culture.

"See the rim on the edge?" Cook said, pointing to a pottery shard no bigger than an inch across. "That's a folded rim with a rounded top. The Swift Creek folded the rim of their pottery over, mashed it down and fused it into the rest of the pot."

Though the pottery shards showed that the site was inhabited by the Swift Creek, it was the oyster shells that pointed the way to more remains and possible dig sites. …


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