ARCHAEOLOGY OF THE TILLETT SITE
The Tillett site today is a low, remnant hammock with a vestigial maritime forest on its highest elevation. In response to continuing sealevel rise, marsh development encroaches around its periphery an on its surface, much disturbed by man during the past century, the evidence of former human occupations can be seen. Located only a few hundred meters south of the modern Wanchese harbor and seafood indus- trial park, the Tillett site was the first fishing community at Wanchese.
When first occupied by humans around A.D. 400, the site area was on the end of a ridge extending southward from the mai hammock on which modern Wanchese is situated. At that time sealevel was'%'about two meters below its present level, and brackish water was just beginning to invade the sounds around the south end of Roanoke Island, creating salt marshes, and providing the proper conditions for oyster beds. The site area at that time supported a mature forest of oak, hickory, red cedar and other species.
The first prehistoric component belongs to the Mount Pleasant phase of the Middle Woodland period. A radiocarbon date from the earliest level of the site places the beginning of the occupation around A.D. 460, and it continued until around A.D. 800. During that time, the site type appears to have been a temporary community, occupied seasonally to exploit food resources available in the locale. The occupants were probably related extended families or affiliation groups, and the available evidence suggests that they came to live there in the late Spring and late Summer/early Fall seasons. The presence of families is suggested by the quantity of ceramics in the component, and such tools as bone awls, usually associated by manufacture and use by females.
Subsistence activities were the primary reason for being there, and this site may be typical of a pattern of seasonal exploitation of marine resources to supplement agricultural production in the interim between planting and harvest, and following the final harvest. The collection of oysters and clams for immediate consumption was the main subsistence activity, but this was supplemented by fishing, particularly for species available in the immediately surrounding estuarine waters. Hunting of land fauna such as deer, and collecting turtles and hickory nuts were minor contributions to the total subsistence pattern. Other activities represented in the component are subsistence-related, such as cooking, lithic tool maintenance, and production or repair of skin garments. The intrasite pattern is unknown, but distribution of artifacts suggests a higher concentration of Mount Pleasant component activities at the southern end of the site near Great Gut. Similarly, details of intersite relationships are poorly known; the Mount Pleasant phase is currently presumed to be ancestral to the later Colington phase, and most sites in the Tidewater have both components. The sedentary settlements to which the Tillett site relates were probably on the Dare mainland, but more research will be necessary to understand the settlement pattern for this phase. (Page 63)
Table 6 compares the density of ceramics, lithic production debris, faunal remains and number of artifacts represented in the component at the Tillett site with a smaller Mount Pleasant site (31DR15) on Colington Island (phelps 1982:51). In the table, the average number of sherds, spalls and bone in a 10-centimeter level of a 2-meter square, and the number of functional types of artifacts found in the component are presented. The first three categories provide a measure of occupation density, while the functional type count reflects range of activities. The comparison suggests that there was either a more intense exploitation of faunal resources (fish and animals), or longer term occupations and thus a greater quantity of these foods at the Tillett site (31DR35). No evidence of lithic production or maintenance was found at 31DR35, and the lithic specimens at 31DR35 appear to relate to maintenance rather than production. 31DR15 has been classified as a short-term subsistence camp, and the Tillett site data suggest, but do not confirm, that it was more seasonal in nature. The burial of humans is usually a good indicator of longer residence, and Burial 4 at 31DR35 belongs to the Mount Pleasant component.
By A.D. 800, the Colington phase had replaced Mount Pleasant and use of the Tillett site continued and intensified. The site environment and the resources in the locale remained stable, and many of the activities in the Colington phase were the same as those previous to it. The site appears to have been occupied by more people at one time than in the previous phase, and during this time becomes an undisputed seasonal site for a number of related or affiliated groups. Subsistence (Page 64) activities remained the same, with shellfish collecting paramount and an almost equal emphasis on fishing for estuarine species. Hunting and collecting still were supplementary or incidental to the other pursuits. The higher number of bones per level are an indication of a larger human population rather than a shift in subsistence patterns.
A few post holes indicate structural activity but provide little on the intrasite relationships. During the Colington component the site occupation reaches its maximum spatial extent and debris from the component is nearly equally distributed over the whole site.
Artifacts in the Colington component represent not only a range of activities but production as well. There is evidence of procurement of lithic resources from the ocean beaches and production of tools. The pebble sources probably negated the need to bring lithic raw material from the home bases to the Tillett site. The collection of large gastropods probably represents production of shell tools as well as procurement for later production.
Table 7 illustrates the difference in density and activities between the Colington component at the Tillett site and two short-term family camps of the phase on Colington island. While the beginning of the Colington component is radiocarbon dated around A.D. 860, its ending date is uncertain because the entire top of the site had been removed by borrowing and then extensively modified. It is probable that seasonal occupations continued throughout the phase until the 1600's since the natural resources would have remained constant. If this was the case, the people known to inhabit this territory in protohistoric times were the Roanoke society of the Carolina Algonkians. The base settlement from which people came in season to the Tillett site might have been Dasemunkepeuc, the Roanoke capital near present-day Mann's Harbor (see Quinn and Quinn 1982), or other villages such as 31DR19 on the north end of Roanoke Island. If, as Quinn and Quinn (1982:133) suspect, Amadas and Barlowe entered the inlet known as "Port Ferinando" on their first voyage, it is within the realm of possibility that the first Roanoke they met were fishing from the Tillett site, which is just across Roanoke Sound from the former inlet.
The historic Green family residence at the Tillett site was the last component. Occupied sometime between 1884 and 1920, the residence was probably typical of the lifeways of Wanchese. Families supported themselves by commercial and subsistence fishing, and maintained gardens and livestock. The residences shown on the 1861 Coast map (Frontispiece), are all situated within neat parcels of land necessary for subsistence.
The Tillett site spans 1500 years and at least two cultures, but throughout its primary reason for existence was its proximity to environments that produced fish and shellfish. Fishing and oystering were the most important activities in all three components. The red drum, croaker and flounder caught and eaten at the site 1500 years ago (Page 65) differ little from those brought in to the docks at Wanchese Harbor today, and the oysters steamed 1500 years ago tasted the same as those of today but were slightly larger. (Page 66)
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