The Archaeology of North Carolina

North Carolina Archaeological Time

The Woodland and Mississippian Periods in North Carolina

Coastal Woodland || Piedmont Tradition Early/Middle Woodland   ||  Piedmont Tradition Late Woodland   ||  Southern Piedmont Late Woodland  ||  Appalachian Summit Woodland   ||  South Appalachian Mississippian

The Woodland Period in the Appalachian Summit

Middle Woodland - Connestee phase (A.D. 200 -800)

Connestee phase defines the second half of the Middle Woodland period. In spite of a clear developmental relationship with the Pigeon phase, Connestee phase is distinctive. Exotic artifacts show connections with other Middle Woodland groups and indicate participation in the Hopewell interaction network.

Connestee series pottery consists of relatively thin-walled vessels tempered with fine sand. Flat-bottomed jars sometimes are found with small tetrapodal supports. Hemispherical bowls and conical jars without supports are part of the vessel assemblage. Exterior surfaces are usually plain, brushed, or simple stamped.

Connestee phase pottery from Garden Creek Mound #2

Much of what we now know about the Connestee phase resulted from the excavation of the Garden Creek Mound No. 2 in Haywood County and Icehouse Bottom site in eastern Tennessee.

Garden Creek Mound No. 2 was a relatively small, earthen platform mound with two successive stages of construction that were used as low platforms for public buildings. The mound overlay a Middle Woodland village that predated the mound. Both the mound stages and the village dated to the Connestee phase.

Garden Creek Mound #2
Remnant of the Connestee phase secondary mound at Garden Creek Mound No. 2 (looking west) (Photo from Keel 1976:76).

The most interesting artifacts recovered from Garden Creek Mound No. 2 were those of non-local, exotic materials or exhibiting nonlocal artistic styles. Clay figurines, prismatic chert blades, cores from which these blades were struck, copper sheets, beads, and a copper pin demonstrate connections with other Middle Woodland groups living in eastern Tennessee and Ohio. Many of these specimens appear to have originated in the Hopewell region of Ohio. Imported wares from Ohio Hopewell and eastern Tennessee areas were also found.

Mica was highly valued by Hopewell peoples, so interaction between Ohio Hopewell and Connestee peoples may have been driven by the abundant mica resources of the western North Carolina mountains.

At Icehouse Bottom in eastern Tennessee, Hopewell pots, prismatic blades of Ohio Flint Ridge chert, cut sheet mica, and Connestee ceramics from Western North Carolina were found in a rich midden dating to the same time as Garden Creek Mound No. 2. Numerous radiocarbon dates place this component in the fifth century A.D.

Connestee phase artifacts

Selected artifacts from Garden Creek Mound No. 2 (a-c, e-i) and the Warren Wilson site (d):

clay figurine (a); stone plummet (b); stone pendant or gorget fragment (c); stone bar gorget (d); Hopewell dentate-stamped, zoned-incised, and rocker-stamped potsherds (e); chert polyhedral core (f); chert prismatic blades (g); Ohio chalcedony blades (h); and native copper pin (i).

Connestee phase sites are usually located on floodplains of major streams, cover several acres, and contain numerous features and structures. In general, they are larger and reflect greater occupational intensity than earlier Woodland sites with the Appalachian Summit region. Although corn agriculture had not arrived, cultivation of indigenous small-grain seed plants had increased in importance.

Swift Creek vessel from Haywood County
A Middle Woodland Swift Creek pot found on Bird Creek in Haywood County in the late 1800s.

The presence of Swift Creek and Napier pottery types in Middle Woodland sites of the Appalachian Summit provides clear evidence the inhabitants were involved in southern as well as northern interaction spheres. Later in the Connestee phase, southern influences from the Swift Creek area of southern and central Georgia continue to be felt after the Hopewell climax.

The end of Connestee phase might extend into the Late Woodland period, but additional research is needed to begin breaking down Connestee assemblages into finer chronological units.

©2010 UNC-RLA