Roberts Wharf

When the Chowanoke society abandoned its lands on the west side of the river sometime after 1644, and moved to their eastern territory in Gates and Chowan counties, the site at Roberts Wharf (31GA1) on Bennett's Creek in Gates County (Figure 1) was already a traditional Colington phase village. In 1677, when the Chowanoke were placed on the first reservation for Native Americans in North Carolina, the site became the primary reservation town and is so shown on Moseley's 1733 map of North Carolina.

The 1983 work at Roberts Wharf was a continuation of research done in 1977-78 and 1982, the subject of a preliminary publication on the site (phelps 1982b:40-56). Five days were spent excavating previously exposed features (Figure 8, left), mapping the site, opening two more 2-meter test squares and collecting a recently cleared area,of the site.

Although the site occupation sequence began around 1000 B.C., it is the Colington and Reservation phase components which are of primary interest to this project, particularly applicable to the goal of general knowledge and the type of culture change experienced by the Chowanoke from 1677 to 1750. Evidence indicates a continuation of traditional subsistence and material culture, with the addition of European Colonial materials (pipes, bells, ceramics) after 1677, and the Colonial Records are testimony to the Chowanoke's own desire to acculturate through Colonial education. Perhaps indicative of continuing contacts with native groups in the vicinity (Meherrin and Tuscarora), Cashie ceramics are relatively well represented in the collection along with a more than usual quantity of burnished plain ware that is similar to Colono-Indian pottery described for the North Carolina Tidewater region. Further work at the site should provide excellent data on the Chowanoke Reservation period transition from traditional Colington phase culture to that of European Colonial.

Baum Site

In a continuing saga of salvaging burials following exposure by shoreline erosion, two weeks in September and October, 1983, were spent excavating Burial 7 at the Baum site (31CK9) in Currituck County (Figure 1). The Baum site probably functioned as a capital town for the ancestors of the Carolina Algonkian "Poteskeet" people, but may not have been occupied in the late 16th century. The site's main importance is its contribution to understanding Carolina Algonkian mortuary and religious customs, and in the excellently preserved skeletal remains which provide a generational population sample and the opportunity to accurately reconstruct the physical type of the Carolina Algonkian people. (Page 15)

Figure 8. Crew excavating Feature 1 at Roberts' Wharf (left) and the Burial 7 ossary at the Baum site (right). (Page 16)

Burial 7 (Figure 8, right), similar to others previously reclaimed in the "cemetery" area at the north end of the site, contained approximately 30 individuals. Four of the crania showed evidence of red-staining from having been stored in mats or chests painted with red pigment. Our current assumption is that these individuals were stored in the rear of mortuary temples in the manner illustrated in John White's painting of such a temple at Secotan. Further, if Harriot's statement that only the nobility lived in the "towns", and the ossuaries only occur in the "town" sites, then this burial type may represent only the ruling and noble classes of Carolina Algonkian society.

The skeletal material from Burial 7 has been sent to the physical anthropology consultant at UNC-Wilmington for processing and analysis.


The Weapemeoc society which inhabited the north shore of Albemarle Sound was known in Colonial times as the "Yeopim," and whose ruler, Kilcocanen, was signatory to the first deed recorded in North Carolina. After selling and/or being forced from their western lands, the Yeopim moved to the site of "Indiantown" (31CM13) in Camden County (Figure 1) and there ended their history. Burials being disturbed in a sand pit brought our attention to the site and 28 square meters of test excavations were opened in March, 1984. Much of this site is still intact beyond the sandpit operation and below the plow zone of the surrounding fields. The individual burials, accomplished soon after death, appear to be in the European pattern. Each individual probably had artifacts of both Indian and European manufacture (shell and glass beads, copper ornaments) placed in the grave, a pattern quite unlike the traditional Colington burial practices, where at least the nobility were honored before interment and few offerings went into the grave. The copper stains on the cranial fragment in Figure 9, left, probably resulted from a head-band sewn with copper discs, and appears to be typical of the dual origins of burial goods.

The Indiantown site has information relating to culture change and acculturation of the Weapemeoc - Yeopim society from its traditional form to that of Colonial society, and here we may be able to address the causal factors of social system collapse through population reduction (from disease, inadequate subsistence and other factors). The Yeopim pattern also takes different paths from that of the Reservation period Chowanoke, and even technological system traits, such as ceramics, show a decline in traditional craftsmanship. The pottery shown in Figure 9, right, which we have named "Indiantown ware", is still shell-tempered in the Colington tradition, but the temper is poorly crushed and the clay has been insufficiently worked, producing a crude, contorted copy of the older Colington ware.

Further excavation at Indiantown has not been possible this year because of higher priorities at other sites, but the site should certainly be included in future grant segments. (Page 17)

Figure 9. A Copper-stained cranial fragment (left) and "Indiantown" ceramics (right) from the Indaintown site. (Page 18)

Roanoke Island

Except for the 19th century work of Williams (1896), Haag's (1958) survey and Harrington's (1962; 1966) research in the immediate vicinity of Fort Raleigh, there has been almost no professional study oriented toward the location of the 16th century Roanoak Indian and 1585-87 Colony settlements on the north end of Roanoke Island. Even a modern management study commissioned by the National Park Service (Thompson 1977) did nothing to address this problem. Over the years, occasional tantalizing clues have emerged, but these have received little or no professional attention or follow-up study. One of the primary purposes of our work on Roanoke Island was to test as many areas as possible in the vicinity of traditional and suspected locations of Indian and European settlements outside National Park Service property, with the goal of identifying both negative and positive evidence areas and thereby eliminating or adding areas for future research. To this end, a field crew worked on Roanoke Island from October 15 to December 15, 1983, and again from April 9-20, 1984. During this period, 28 2-meter, 1-meter and lx2-meter test squares were opened, a number of transect tests were dug, considerable surface area was walked, informants questioned, specimens and records at Fort Raleigh studied and photographed, and a study of island erosion initiated. The net result has been as much negative as positive evidence, but this has generated new hypotheses to test.

Work began at Northwest Point (Figure 10), on the property of Sandpiper's Trace, Inc., the traditional location of the Roanoke Village visited by Barlowe in 1584, and which supported Lane's colony in 1585-86 (Quinn 1955). Site 31DR19 was first recorded by Haag (1958), who collected ceramic specimens from the beach, as had earlier investigators. Five test squares were excavated by us in the vicinity of the point (Figure 10) with negative evidence of cultural material, and squares C-E outside the filled and modified section A of the property revealed that the bumic zone below the top sand layer lay directly at present sea level (Figure 11, right). Subsequently, a study of erosion patterns at Northwest point revealed that the dark gray humic layer, presumed to have been the exposed land surface in the 16th century, is being eroded at current sea level (Figure 11, left). Since all known and reported specimens have been reclaimed from the shore of Northwest Point, and our tests were negative, one can conclude that the site which once existed there is now completely eroded. All reported collections from the site have included both Mount Pleasant and Colington Phase ceramics, but given the elevation of the land with respect to current water level, the extent of erosion in response to rising water level, and the negative land evidence of cultural mafierial, the logical hypothesis is that this site was not inhabited in the 16th century, probably having been abandoned some centuries earlier because of low elevation and erosion. While the hypothesis will require more exacting information and correlations of elevation, sea level rise, and rates of erosion, I believe that it will stand the test.

Tests in Area C of Sandpiper's Trace and the Pearce property, both adjoining the National Park Service tract (Figure 10), produced only evidence of 19th century activities (a house site, tar kiln and scattered specimens). These tests were placed to determine whether or not the scatter of (Page 19)

Figure 10. Archaeological Investigations on the Northwest End of Roanoke Island. (Page 20)

Figure 11. Erosion at Northwest Point (left) and water level in Square C, Northwest Point. (Page 21)

16th century English and Colington artifacts observed in the Elizabethan Gardens while under construction extended this far west and south. This was important, given the relatively frequent occurrence of Colington specimens from Harrington's excavations at the Fort and a similar situation observed in the current NPS project (John Ehrenhard, personal communication). The frequency of reported specimens appears to concentrate at the Fort and then decline as a westward scatter near the Gardens.

A search of the Fort Raleigh files produced slides of Harrington's unreported 1965 salvage of "Indian skeletons" near the old Dough farmstead at Dough's (or Etheridge's) Point (Figure 10). The excavation photos reveal what is probably an ossuary burial similar to those of the Colington phase, and the existence of this type of burial usually confirms a town location. Further, an 1840 shoreline survey map incorporated in Cheeseman's (1982) study shows the notation of "Indian grave yard," also at Dough's Point, presumably meaning the observed erosion of burials at some time around 1840. This, along with two features recorded in Harrington's 1965 field notes, but not excavated, certainly indicate the existence of a Colington phase town at or near Dough's Point. The point has lost considerable land in the erosion process, and specimens collected from the shoreline as far east as Crab Claw spit probably migrated with the sand from erosion of the point (phelps 1984) over time. While nothing may be left, and even the skeletons excavated by Harrington have not yet been located in the Smithsonian Institution collections, Dough's Point is the probable location of the 9-longhouse village visited by Barlowe in 1584, and relied upon by Lane in 1585-1586. Its location is approximately one-half mile from the Fort, sufficient area to support field systems, sufficiently distant from Lane's operation to be safe, but near enough for frequent and necessary exchange. Future research should include testing of the area between Dough's Point and the Elizabethan Gardens.

A further, unsuccessful search was made for the "burial mound" reported by Williams in 1896. Squares and transacts were opened at various points along Alder Branch, and a local informant finally showed us the possible location of the "old corduroy bridge" across the branch, a major locational point in Williams' description which will be a key to future searches (Figure 10).

A report of previous exposure of "Indian skeletons" in the old Cooper Field borrow pit (Figure 13, top left) occasioned excavations there (Figures 10, 12), but the only material found was an aboriginal milling stone, 19th century scatter, and a ditch line traced east and west of the borrow pit. No artifacts were reclaimed from the ditch although its fill and outline are very obvious (Figure 13, bottom), and its date and relationships remain unknown. In addition to the excavations, a 19th century cemetery belonging to the Midgett family was mapped, photographed and recorded.

Two test squares were opened on the Fuqua property (Figure 10) where a 1563 English coin (Figure 13, top right) had been found, but no evidence of other artifacts or features was found. At the moment, the best explanation for the coin's location is that of an accidental loss by one of the 1584-87 colonists or an Indian into whose possession it had come. (Page 22)

Figure 12. Ditch line Feature 4 & 11) in Cooper Field Borrow pit. (Page 23)

Figure 13. Excavations in the Cooper Field borrow pit (upper left), a 1563 English coin (upper right), and the ditch line and Feature 5 in Square B (lower). (Page 24)

A study of the Roanoke Island Historical Association Center for the Arts site in Fort Raleigh National Historic Site (phelps 1984), permitted a better understanding of the stratigraphy on the north end of Roanoke Island, some new data on erosion patterns and the exposure of small oyster shell deposits, origin unknown, much like those on Colington Island. While radiocarbon dating of the specimens from that project was unsuccessful, the data generated have direct application to the current research although it was not a part of this project.

Bodie Island

A brief shoreline survey of reported shell midden sites on the sound between Jockey Ridge and Nags Head Woods produced evidence of three sites, all mostly or completely eroded. One, and possibly another, of the sites (31DR22, 56) (Figure 1) belong to the Colington phase, but have insufficient context remaining to warrant further work.

Hatteras Island, Croatan

The primary focus of the Hatteras Island survey and tests was to determine whether or not the Cape Creek site (31DRI) at Buxton (Figure 14, upper) was sufficiently intact to support excavations. The site has been traditionally considered the location of the capital town of Croatan, and thus figured prominently in English-Algonkian relations during the 1584-87 period. A surface survey of a recently cleared area of the site collected numerous specimens of ceramics (almost exclusively Colington) and bones, much the same as the earlier collection by Haag (1958). In the cleared area, a section has been graded and a septic tank installed, presumably for a house, and some graded soil has been pushed up into a second terrace above the house site (Figure 14. lower left). Underneath this second terrace, shovel tests revealed a 20-30 cm. midden still intact (Figure 14, lower right), and every indication points two a large section of the site undisturbed under the dunes beyond the clearing. Site 31DR25, a southern extension of the Cape Creek site, was densely covered with maritime forest and undergrowth, and there was insufficient field time remaining to clear and test. Local informants report that shell midden areas of the site still exist, however.

Four other sites near Buxton were relocated and collected, but no time remained for further work. The Cape Creek site offers one of the best opportunities to thoroughly investigate an English-Algonkian contact town whose affiliation and name (Croatan or Croatoan) are known, which figured prominently in friendly relations with the 1587 colony, and which may contain not only English artifacts but English skeletons. Every effort should be made to conduct excavations there. (Page 25)

Figure 14. The Cape Creek site at Buxton (upper), with surface debris (lower left) and intact midden in a transect test (lower right). (Page 26)

Other Research

The description and analysis of available human skeletal remains of the Carolina Algonkian population should provide not only one of the most thorough of contemporary studies, but also one of the larger population samples. Remains from 5 ossuaries at the Baum site (31CK9), one each from the Hollowell site (31CO5), Piggott site (31CR14), and Hatteras Village site (31DR38), and single burials from Baum and the Tillett site (31DR35) number over 237 individuals representative of at least 4 different local populations.

During this year, processing, reconstruction and preservation of the ossuary samples has begun, and a summary description of one of these, Burial I from 3ICK9, has been prepared along with a description and analysis of four burials from the Tillett site. The metric and morphological traits to be measured and observed throughout the study have been selected and computer programs designed for processing these data.

The summary skeletal study of Burial I was to be included with this report, but it has not been received from the physical anthropology consultant. (Page 27)

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Carolina Algonkian Project, All Rights Reserved