The Archaeology of North Carolina

North Carolina Archaeological Regions

Central Piedmont region


Archaeology of the Central Piedmont

The central Piedmont is that part of the North Carolina Piedmont drained by the upper portions of the Neuse and Cape Fear Rivers. During the Paleo-Indian, Archaic, and Early and Middle Woodland periods archaeology of the central Piedmont is much like the rest of the Piedmont. After A.D. 1000 the local expression of the Piedmont Village Tradition is the Haw River phase.


The Paleo-Indian is the time of the earliest generally accepted arrival of people in the southeastern United States - between 9000 and 10,000 B.C

Paleo-Indian Chronology in North Carolina

Archaeologists working in the Southeast use radiocarbon dating and differences in spear point forms and frequencies to tell time during the Paleo-Indian Period.

Paleo-Indian Settlement and Subsistence in North Carolina

Paleo-Indian settlers in the Southeast found a rapidly changing landscape. Current evidence suggests that many of extinctions of Late Pleistocene megafauna - including the horse, mastadon, and mammoth - were complete by 8500 B.C.

Piedmont Paleo-Indian

When Paleo-Indians first came into the Piedmont winters were harsher and summers cooler than today. For about 1000 years, both people and now-extinct Pleistocene animals co-existed in North Carolina.


The Archaic Period (8000 - 1000 B.C.) covers over half of the timespan people have lived in North Carolina. This vast time has been explored by finding well-preserved deposits in rock-shelters and stratified, deeply-buried open sites.

The Archaic Period in the Piedmont

As in the preceding Paleo-Indian period, much more is known about the Archaic in the Piedmont than either the mountains or the coastal areas. In North Carolina, archaeologists were able to define long chronological sequences by excavating deeply buried, stratified sites in the alluvial floodplains of the Piedmont


In North Carolina, the Woodland is divided into Early, Middle, and Late periods. Along the coast and through much of the Piedmont, the Late Woodland continues until the Contact period, while in the Appalachian Summit and in the Southern Piedmont, Mississippian and Mississippian-influenced societies developed after A.D. 1000.

Piedmont Tradition Early and Middle Woodland Periods (1000 B.C. - A.D. 800)

The Badin and Yadkin phases begin the Piedmont Village Tradition across the Piedmont.

Piedmont Tradition Late Woodland Period (A.D. 800 - 1600)

The Late Woodland across the Piedmont begins with the Uwharrie phase. After A.D. 1100, major cultural changes took place as regional manifestations of the Piedmont Village Tradition emerged. The local expression of the Piedmont Village Tradition in the central Piedmont is the Haw River phase followed by the Hillsboro phase.


The time of contact between Indians living in North Carolina and Europeans arriving from Spain and England varied considerably across the state. Beginnings of these arrivals do not necessarily herald the beginnings of significant changes in the histories of North Carolina's tribes. However, overall, this was a time of sweeping and often devastating change.

The Contact Period in the Central Piedmont

In the latter half of the seventeenth century North Carolina's Indians felt the brunt of the European presence in their land. The initial advance of Europeans into the backcountry of North Carolina came from Tidewater Virginia, not coastal North Carolina. In the central Piedmont, a series of sites have been excavated from this time period illustrating the effects of these contacts.

Contact, Interaction, and Cultural Change in the Piedmont

A sufficient number of contact period sites in the Piedmont have been excavated to allow an overview of the specific consequences of the interaction between tribes and Euro-Americans.

North Carolina today is the home of the largest Native American population east of the Mississippi River. The robust cultural diversity seen in the archaeological record of the last 12,000 years survives today in the tribal traditions of North Carolina's native peoples.




©2010 UNC-RLA