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29 October 2006
Teen hideout may be archeologically signficant

Teens on Skidaway Island (Georgia, USA) have apparently picked the wrong spot for a hideout, said Russ Wigh, a Skidaway resident and naturalist. They've built a makeshift tree house above what could be an archeologically important Native American shell mound. "We know kids have always wanted to build hideouts where they could escape with their friends," said Wigh. "Innocent enough, but in this case, instead of a deserted 'island' local teens have likely chosen the wrong spot. To make matters worse, they have left a trail of junk and damaged the marsh as well." Bob Entorf, an archeologist with the Georgia Historic Preservation Division, said he isn't sure if the state has records of this site. Shell mounds have been documented on Skidaway, but an initial review of those records, from an archeological survey for The Landings development, found none that match the precise location of this mound.
     The site could be a shell ring, a rare type of midden that contains some of the earliest pottery in North America, said Mike Russo, an archeologist with the National Park Service who studies shell rings. After examining Wigh's photos, he's eager to learn more and wants to map the site with a laser transit to determine its shape. "Such a map could be used to help gauge any damage from looting or erosion that may be occurring on the site," he said. Damage from typical teenage activity is unlikely, said Russo. "Unless the kids are actually digging in the ring or eroding its sides with vehicles, not much harm is being done," he said. "We could do an assessment of the damage. We could even use the kids as informants and maybe get them motivated to preserve the site, maybe act as its stewards."
     Wigh noticed the shell mound several years ago, but only recently he noticed it had attracted the teens. It's unclear who owns the site, though Wigh suspects it's on state property because the small hammock sits in the marsh. Vehicles have gashed deep tires tracks in the marsh on the way to the tiny island. Law enforcement officers from the Department of Natural Resources could get involved if there's continued damage to the marsh, said Susan Shipman, director of the Coastal Resources Division. As he researches the site, Wigh is also organizing a group of Skidaway residents to clean it up. And he's investigating ways to get interpretive signs donated and erected near the midden, so locals can appreciate the island's past.

Source: Savannah Mornign News (25 October 2006)

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