Research Laboratories of Archaeology

Catawba Project (Steve Davis and Brett Riggs)

   When explorers and traders from Virginia and South Carolina first entered the middle Catawba-Wateree valley in the late 1600s, they encountered a large native population comprised of Sugerees, Esaws, Kadapaus, and others. This diverse community soon became known to the English as the Catawba Nation. During the first half of the 1700s, as European-introduced diseases, Iroquois raiding, and Indian-Colonial wars took their toll on native peoples throughout both Carolina colonies, more than 20 neighboring tribes sought refuge among the Catawba and established several towns. In 1759, a smallpox epidemic devastated the entire native community and the survivors, now all known as Catawba, resettled in two towns. After this time, the distinct histories of the Catawba and the disparate groups who settled among them merge to form a single history of the modern Catawba Nation.

   The Catawba Project seeks to examine the emergence of the modern Catawba in the mid-eighteenth century using documentary sources and archaeological evidence. Maps and firsthand accounts of the Catawba during the 1700s and early 1800s will be used to trace their settlement history and to locate their towns. Some towns already have been found, and others should be identifiable from historical maps. We are particularly interested in identifying a chronological sequence of settlements that can be investigated archaeologically to study the processes of ethnogenesis that transformed the culturally diverse Catawba community of the early and mid-1700s into the seemingly homogeneous, modern Catawba Nation.

   This project will seek outside funding to sustain long-term field research within the context of an archaeological field school. In so doing, it will serve as a vehicle for training undergraduate students in archaeological field methods and strategies, and it also will provide a context for graduate student research.