Monday, June 20, 2011

April Archaeology on Hatteras, 2011

Bristol students prepare to dig!
You know... the Lost Colony has generated so much attention lately on the island of Hatteras.  If you go by Paul Green's outdoor drama, though... Hatteras has little to do with it.  But, that was necessary for the state to get the funding to complete Hwy 64 to Roanoke and begin a tourist mecca.  The island of Hatteras is still too far and the Herbert Bonner bridge is still in need of repair.  It doesn't look like the state is ever going to get down that way to discover the truth.  So... that is where organizations like the Lost Colony Research Group come in.  A few years ago, that organization has worked to get archaeology on Hatteras started again since David Phelps conducted his dig in 1997-98.  Local Hatteras residents were not thrilled that Phelps took artifacts with him to Florida when he retired.  They especially weren't thrilled that he died down there after marrying a young woman who cared little for the artifacts.  Consequently, it took some time to get them back... but, rest assured, Dr. Charles Ewen at East Carolina University's archaeology department assures me that they are available for their owners to retrieve at any time.

Still, the Hatteras residents have not much cared for ECU or its archaeologists.  A few individuals with personal motives have thrown fuel on that fire as well.  Consequently, the Lost Colony Research Group realized that, if they wanted to do archaeology on the island, and get permission from its residents, that they would need someone else.  

A member of LCRG and author of a new book, called Grenville and the Lost Colony of Roanoke, used his clout as mayor of Bideford, UK to encourage the University of Bristol to come to our rescue and begin investigations into Hatteras Island.  Following UoB's arrival on Hatteras, another organization was formed to support the archaeological process and to provide for storage and care for these artifacts.  The Croatoan Archaeological Society are presently those caretakers.  They currently hold the artifacts from these recent digs and hope for more.  

So do we.  The digs have involved many wonderfully talented students as well from Bristol, and the fun that we had was captured very well by our own founder and DNA expert, Roberta J. Estes in our recent newsletter

Bobbi's articles are always a pleasure to read and her stories involving British students wearing Outer Banks t-shirts and sporting a "Howdy Ya'll" are heart-warming and, yes, Alex... you had a superb accent!  

Discolorations in the soil reveal the presence of posts that once supported a structure.  This one appeared English.
Indications were that Wattle & Daub construction, an early English technique (and one that we expect to find in the LC colonists), was used on this home.. also, slate was found, possibly used in the roofing which was a popular technique in English construction.  Swithland was the most popular quarry at the time and it may have furnished the roofing material for this home.  One thing certain is that whoever had this slate brought from England, must have had the wealth to transport it.  This home belonged to someone of significance.
Of Course, we'll know more about the findings on this dig when our PhD candidate at UofB, Louisa Pittman finishes her site report.  Unfortunately for some of our Indian enthusiasts, this dig revealed an early 18th century homestead find rather than the expected bonanza of Indian artifacts.  According to preliminary deed studies, this home may have been the home of James Wahab and, possibly Henry Gibbs before 1738.  Gibbs originally received the patent for this property in 1716.  Wahab owned it by that time and purchased another adjoining tract to the west of this one.  

 An interesting fact is that another house appears in deed records just east of the Wahab tract... one that has been very popular in historic memory.  This house involved Valentine Wallis first, perhaps associated with the "workshop" found by Phelps nearby, then by the 1750s, it was the residence of Job Carr, who captained a militia regiment from Hatteras and investigated the Elks-Robb dispute over Indian Town for Gov. Arthur Dobbs in 1756, and finally it was sold to Hezekiah Farrow.  By the time that Farrow had this home, it was designated as the boundary of an administrative district that separated Hatteras from the rest of Currituck County.  I'd love to find that house!

Still, settlement concentrated on the Buxton end of the island during the 18th century.  Some occurred on the other end, but the closest to the seat of government was Buxton.  As is evident, historical analysis is vital to understand what artifacts are found where and why.  

Louisa Pittman, on the phone as usual, and her boss, Mark Horton of the Archaeology Department at the University of Bristol.
 Thanks to everyone that made this dig a success... 

Something that I feel should be said is that digs of this nature may not tell us that the Lost, or "Abandoned" Colonists (as Karen Kupperman called them), were on Hatteras... but, eventually they will.  Meanwhile, we are uncovering a wealth of historical knowledge.  This has enormous import for the island of Hatteras.  One day, we'll find those colonists and, we may be very surprised to find them amongst us today! 

1 comment:

M Harold Page said...

Googling "wattle and daub" took me here. That's an interesting project and not what we Brits usually associate with the US!