Sampling of North Carolina's Archaeological Sites
Pasquotank County, NC
farm owners and archaeologists is often a tenuous thing. As the
economy of agriculture becomes increasingly difficult, the drive
to cultivate more land increases, along with the number of crops
grown per year. Further, increased productivity brings more marginal
land under the plow. Use of deep or chisel plowing adds greater
depth to the disturbance of land already being cultivated and obstructions
to plowing are more likely to be removed from fields. All these
factors have lead to increasing destruction of archaeological resources.
The farmer's concern
is one of economics -- a concern which is especially understandable
in these days when the public auction of agricultural land is becoming
more frequent. It is difficult to appreciate the importance of evidence
of past habitations when one is attempting to preserve the existing
family farm. On the archaeologist's part there has been a reluctance
in the past of involving the farmer in the process of excavations
and little attempt at coordinating schedules. The usual practice
has been to pay the farmer for crop damage and simply schedule excavations
at the convenience of the archaeologist. However, there are occasions
when simple curiosity, an interest in local history and an interest
in public education combine to properly recover archaeological evidence
and to allow continued agricultural use of the land.
The excavation of the
Reid Site (3lPk8) in Pasquotank County is a prime example of the
cooperation which is possible. The site was first identified by
Mr. Douglas Reid and his father while attempting to clear an obstruction
in one of their fields. During the clearing process, Douglas noted
a number of unusual artifacts and what appeared to be a portion
of brick flooring. Feeling that they were excavating something unusual,
the Reids halted their clearing work and contacted the Museum of
the Albemarle. The Museum, in turn, contacted the [Office of State
Archaeology] and a site inspection was arranged. Had it not been
for this initial effort on the part of the Reid family, an extremely
important archaeological site would have been irretrievably lost.
The site was identified and initial steps toward preservation were
taken by the landowners without the intervention of the professional
community. Had it not been for their initial interest, none of the
following events would have been possible.
The initial site inspection
was made by John Clauser, [Office of State Archaeology] archaeologist.
The brief investigation indicated that the site was worthy of salvage
and that the work necessary to reveal the extent of the find would
take more than just a day or two. Discussions with the land owner
resulted in an agreement that the site would be preserved for one
year to allow the Branch an opportunity to mount a salvage project.
However, at the end of that year the obstruction would have to be
The excavations were
scheduled around the owners planting schedule, relying on local
volunteers as a labor force. The local community responded quite
well -- over 30 individuals provided at least one days work each;
several individuals spent more time on site. One of the most satisfying
elements of the project was the number of local citizens who arrived
on site simply to see what was going on and then chose to stay on
The excavations revealed
the remains of an early 18th century house which burned. while in
use. Preliminary analysis of the artifacts recovered indicates a
home of a successful planter who possessed a great number of luxury
items. Particularly noteworthy were the relatively large numbers
of crystal stemware fragments, pewter spoon fragments and decorative
clothing buttons and shoe buckles. Food remains indicate a primary
dependence on domestic animals, especially pig, but supplemented
with wild game and fish and shellfish.
The structural remains
were quite substantial. The solid ballast stone foundation measured
12 feet north-south by at least 17 feet east-west. The western wall
of the foundation has been destroyed, however, making it impossible
to provide an accurate measurement. The structure had a brick floor
equipped with a drainage system along the north and east walls.
The bonding pattern in the floor indicated that the structure had
two rooms -- a hall and parlor plan -- separated by a wooden interior
wall. Evidence of a single exterior door was found in the southeast
corner of the structure. Although the structure appears rather small
by today's standards, it appeared to have been well constructed.
The construction techniques, combined with the artifacts found in
the interior of the structure, suggest that it was built and destroyed
during the first half of the 18th century.
The importance of the
Reid site data can not be understated. This excavation will help
to fill in many details which are otherwise missing in the written
records and will add significantly to the understanding of those
few 18th century structures which remain in northeastern North Carolina.
However, the cooperation between landowner and archaeologist and
the willing participation of local individuals in the excavation
underscores the importance of the research. As a direct result of
this project the number of recorded archaeological sites in Pasquotank
County has more than doubled. Farmers have noted artifact concentrations
for years and a few have collected artifacts, but none knew that
anyone was interested in making a record of their locations. Finally,
contrary to their original plans, the Reids have decided to preserve
the remains of the foundation and brick floor.
the professional and the amateur communities has resulted in more
than the salvage of a single site. It has built an awareness of
archaeological sites in the region and of their importance to history.
We wish to extend a sincere "thanks" to the Reid family and their
Pasquotank neighbors for their interest, cooperation and participation.
by: John W. Clauser,
Jr., NC Office of State Archaeology
by permission from the NEWSLETTER of the Friends of
North Carolina Archaeology, Inc., Spring 1986, Volume 2, Number 2.
© North Carolina Archaeological Society 1986
to ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES