|18 June 2004
Preserving ancient remains in South Carolina
Officials are seeking an environmental permit to construct a retaining wall that would protect a pile of shells and other possible artifacts from a creek's rising waters. The pile of shells, possibly 4,500 years old, remains at Edisto Beach State Park (South Carolina, U.S.A.) and is known as an Indian shell midden. It's about 60 feet long and eight inches high. State park archaeologists and officials worry that without protective measures, the heap of shells and possibly other artifacts will erode into the creek, leaving few clues of the tribal life that once existed there.
Chester DePratter, an archaeologist with the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of South Carolina, has spent the past 34 years studying Native American sites in South Carolina. He said middens are coastal, and erosion is a common problem. Archaeologists think the Indians would throw trash into a large circular ring near or around their homes.
While middens are composed mostly of oyster shells, broken pottery and animal bones. Park manager Robert Achenberg said this midden is unique because it contains what's known as Thom's Creek pottery, one of the oldest in North America. Amid the ashen shells are the blackened pottery shards with square-shaped or linear etchings. State park archaeologist David Jones said the pottery was fired in such a way as to blacken the outside. The pots probably were fragile and shattered easily. When they broke, they ended up on the trash pile, he said.
Source: The State.com (14 June 2004)
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