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DNR News

February 28, 2013

Archaeological excavations open at Great Pee Dee March 11

The 17th Annual Johannes Kolb Archaeology and Education Project will be March 11-16 and March 18-22 at Great Pee Dee Heritage Preserve, a 2,725-acre preserve in Darlington County owned and managed by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.

On Saturday, March 16, from 9 a. m. to 4 p.m., the public is invited to tour the excavations at the Johannes Kolb Site. There will be a host of demonstrators at the site for the March 16 public day. Numerous time periods when people lived at the Kolb site will be represented including: 18th century Native Americans and European colonists; late 19th century African-American sharecroppers; and demonstrations of primitive skills (stone tools, friction fire and aboriginal cookery).Kolb site

Excavations will take place at the site on March 11-16, 18-22. Someone will be on site every day from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. to talk with students and visitors. School groups wishing to visit may contact Sean Taylor, S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Heritage Trust archaeologist, at (803) 734-3753 in Columbia or by e-mail at TaylorS@dnr.sc.gov.

More than 90 percent of the Native American artifacts excavated from the Kolb Site are the discarded by-products, i.e. flakes, of the stone tool-making process. Many of the historic artifacts represent the mundane day-to-day activities of making a living from the river swamp. Both are equally important to our understanding of what life was like for people who lived along the Great Pee Dee River for the last 12,000 years. However, these artifacts are not as exciting as those occasional pieces that represent the people who called the Kolb site home.

"Colleagues from the Savannah River Site have been working with us for several years now at Kolb. This year they would like that we collect certain artifacts without touching them directly," said Taylor. "They want to perform residue analysis in order to determine what those tools were used for. At many sites around the world this analysis has proven useful. At Cahokia in St. Louis, small clay cups produced organic residue with biomarkers for the holly plant Ilex vomitoria. The results suggested the cups were used to serve the caffeinated ritual beverage known among southeastern Indians as Black Drink. We’ll be excited to learn what residue remains on the artifacts we uncover this year."

A multi-component prehistoric site is present on the preserve with Native American remains from Paleoindian (11,000 years ago), Early Archaic (10,000 to 8,000 years ago), Early Woodland (4,000 to 2,000 years ago) and later Woodland times (2,500 to 1,500 years ago). Thoms Creek pottery, from the Early Woodland period, has been found on the site, and a sizable fragment was recovered in 2004. Thoms Creek is some of the earliest Indian-made clay pottery in the continental United States. In 1998, a Hardaway Point dating back 11,000 years was discovered at the Great Pee Dee Heritage Preserve, and in 2000 a portion of a 12,000-year-old Clovis Point was found.

Artifacts from the 19th century, such as broken glass, bricks and nails, have also been found on the preserve. In total, more than 200,000 artifacts have been recorded at the site in the past years of fieldwork. Chip Helms of Darlington, a past member of the S.C. Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology's Archaeological Research Trust Board, first recorded this site and others on the preserve in 1975. Helms, who has explored the preserve since he was a young boy, has been the driving force behind the current excavations.


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