The Archaeology of North Carolina

North Carolina Archaeological Regions

Southern Piedmont region


Archaeology of the Southern Piedmont

During the Paleo-Indian, Archaic, and Early and Middle Woodland periods, archaeology of the southern Piedmont is much like the rest of the Piedmont. However, the southern Piedmont region is archaeologically unique within North Carolina during Late Woodland times. After A.D. 1000 the cultures located between the Uwharrie Mountains and the South Carolina border did not participate in the Piedmont Village Tradition. Instead they were influenced by the South Appalachian Mississippian Tradition.


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.

Southern Piedmont Late Woodland Period

The Late Woodland across the Piedmont begins with a continuation of the Piedmont Village Tradition Late Woodland Uwharrie phase. But in the southern Piedmont the Late Woodland villages typical of the rest of the Piedmont were not present after A.D. 1000. Rather, the southern Piedmont saw the arrival of the Pee Dee culture - mound builders with a stratified and politically complex society.


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.

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. Although these effects were certainly felt in the southern Piedmont, the contact period is better known in the north central Piedmont, the central Piedmont, north into Virginia, and southeast towards the colonial center of Charleston.

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