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7 July 2009
Archaeologists unravel North Carolina's ancient secrets

Plastic bags packed with pottery shards fill 5-gallon buckets inside a metal storage container a few hundred yards from the edge of the Macon County Airport runway. Airplanes throttle for takeoff as archaeologists sift through the remains of an ancient village. The excavation is North Carolina's (USA) largest right now, and it's a fitting example of the friction between accommodating development and protecting history in a growing state with uncharted archaeological value.
     Work on the 6-acre site is being done so the airport can extend its runway. The archaeological study is required before construction. "It is really unusual to get a look at this much area," said lead archaeologist Tasha Benyshek. "It tells you a whole lot more about the settlement."
     More exploration could be coming to North Carolina, but archaeologists say more needs to be done to preserve private land where development threatens to destroy potentially important sites. Archaeological study is not required on private land unless a grave is discovered. "I don't think we are doing enough to preserve the evidence we need to study slowly," said Thomas R. Whyte, a professor of archaeology at Appalachian State University. "Maybe our efforts should be more toward conservation for future archaeologists rather than sending out the armies to do more research."

Source: Asheville Citizen-Times (28 June 2009)

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