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 Piedmont Village Tradition

The Late Woodland Period (A.D. 800 - 1600)

Early Saratown phase (A.D. 1450 - 1600)

Early Saratown sites in the northern Piedmont follow the Dan River phase and date to the period just before contacts with Europeans. These sites show signs of a stable population joined in fewer but larger villages. The phase was defined from excavations at the Hairston site (aka Early Upper Saratown site), one of the most intensively occupied sites in the Dan River valley.

Early Saratown phase pottery has been described as the Oldtown series - a well-made ware with fine paste and smooth interiors. The majority of sherds have smooth or burnished surfaces, others have net-impressed surfaces. Decorations include rim notching, finger pinching, and stick punctation similar to Dan River phase ceramics. New decorative techniques include rim castellations, lip burnishing, and the application of filleted strips. Vessel forms include bowls and jars. Influences from the Catwaba drainage to the south are present.

Burials at Hairston contained a rich array of grave goods, in stark contrast to the earlier Haw River and Dan River phases. Shaft-and-chamber burials were accompanied by the most offerings, including hundreds of bone and shell beads, bone awls, shell hair pins, serrated mussel shells, three "rattlesnake" or "Citico"-style gorgets, and a single pottery vessel. Contact with a copper bar gorget preserved a piece of pine bark covering one burial.

Citico-style gorgets from the Hairston site
Citico-style shell gorgets from the Hairston site.

The majority of features at Hairston were large cylindrical or bell-shaped storage pits. Earth ovens, shallow basins, and hearths were also found.

Compared with the earlier Dan River phase remains, Early Saratown phase had a much broader based subsistence. A wide range of resources from a variety of habitats sustained Early Saratown people. The size and intensity of the Hairston site occupation suggest that the increased reliance on agriculture that began during the preceding Dan River phase reached its peak just before contact with the first Europeans.

The occupations of the Sara Indians in this area continued until after A.D. 1700 as the Middle Saratown and Late Saratown phases.

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