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Archaeology at Green River Preserve

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By Martha Wallace, Senior Mentor

Green River Preserve is a magical place in so many ways. It is a place where young people can go to experience the wonders of nature; taking mentor hikes through the forests, learning about plants and animals, becoming good stewards of the Earth, learning respect for nature and each other, facing and overcoming challenges, discovering new skills, and making friends. It is a rare place where electronics are put away when you arrive, not to be seen again until you leave, unplugging from the world. The Preserve is also a place rich with ancient Native American history and culture.

GRP has been a big part of our family for many years. Both of my children have experienced the wonder of camp. My oldest, 20 years old now, was a camper for 5 years, then expeditions for 2 years, then a counselor, art activity assistant, and assistant for spring and fall school programs. My 15 year old was a camper for 8 years, and was supposed to go to the Outer Banks Expedition last summer - boo, COVID. However, she is already signed up for the OBX expedition of 2021!

As an archaeologist, I could see and feel the ancient Native American history everywhere from the first time I drove into camp in 2011. I became determined to conduct archaeological investigations around the 3,500 acres of GRP. Adjacent to the north and west of GRP, is an additional 10,000 acres of protected land of Dupont State Recreational Park. All together, this land combined offers much to discover and learn.

For the past nine years, I have spent part, sometimes most, of the summer at GRP conducting shovel tests and unit excavations, teaching archaeology, leading Mentor hikes, and being an Archaeology instructor for Spring and Fall school programs. Each year I have been able to unearth another layer to the story of the Native American culture in and around GRP and Western North Carolina.

In the last decade, the data has been piling up, revealing a Native American culture over 10,000 years old. The evidence of Native Americans at GRP is extensive. There are petroglyphs on Long Rock, bivouacs throughout GRP, caves, a fault line where a rock quarry is located, many lithic scatters on the surface from flintknapping, and points dating from 10,000 BC to 500 years ago. Additionally, the is Native American pottery, a 5000 year old Native American fire ring 2 feet below the surface, dwelling sites along the Green River, evidence of long distance trade, and more.

Join me over the next few months as we uncover the history and culture of the Native Americans who inhabited this land. We will examine each piece of evidence as an archaeological inquiry, analyzing and interpreting the data to discover the story of the ancient peoples who lived in this area thousands of years ago. For the next post we will investigate the petroglyphs on Long Rock. Until then remember “Culture is Everywhere”.