By Susan Bamann, Ph.D., RPA, Regional Director and Renewable Energy Lead at Commonwealth Heritage Group, Inc.
Commonwealth archaeologists Susan Bamann and Joseph Stair recently completed fieldwork for the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s archaeological data recovery at 31WA1997. The site, located near Garner in the wake of the critical Complete 540 highway infrastructure project, yielded evidence of multiple precontact-era components related to short-term occupations by indigenous Americans. The excavations were conducted with support from Seramur and Associates, PC, for geoarchaeological and geochemistry work. The project plan was developed by NCDOT’s Archaeology Team in conjunction with other interested and concerned groups—with the project reflecting the kind of successes that can come from environmental review and compliance-based archaeology. Site preservation, very generally, appeared to relate to a lack of plowing and burial in alluvial and possible aeolian sediment. Within the sediment, three ceramic concentrations appeared to represent deposits related to former living surface areas within one or more camps. These may date to the Early and/or Middle Woodland periods (1000 B.C. to A.D. 800) and reflect a small number of fairly large earthenware cooking or storage vessels with cord-marked or fabric-imprinted surfaces. Below the possible Woodland surfaces, excavation levels yielded a diverse diagnostic point assemblage include side- and corner-notched, stemmed, lanceolate, and triangular forms. Some of the corner-notched points appear consistent with Early Archaic (8000 to 6000 B.C.) types and are from deeper contexts. Lithic raw materials reflect broad procurement within the North Carolina Piedmont and Fall Line areas. Much of the assemblage from the site constitutes evidence of patters of technological, exchange-related, and subsistence-related behavior, and one item, a small stone gorget fragment dating to the Middle Woodland period or early, may be a personal decorative or functional items and a more unique reflection of the past. We are fortunate that archaeological sites like 31WA1997, with multiple components from intact stratigraphic contexts, can provide a rare opportunity to investigate the long history of a single place significant to multiple generations of people in the past and much more.