The Archaeology of North Carolina

North Carolina Archaeological Time

The Archaic Period in North Carolina : COAST || PIEDMONT || MOUNTAINS


During the Middle Archaic small kin-based groups moved from place to place pursuing a foraging subsistence strategy. The Middle Archaic in the Piedmont has been divided into three phases of about 1000 years each: Stanly, Morrow Mountain, and Guilford.

Middle Archaic (6000 - 3000 B.C.)

Simple but ubiquitous Middle Archaic tool assemblages suggest that new settlement and subsistence patterns (small, kin-related groups moving as units from place to place) formed as a response to climatic changes. This foraging pattern allowed groups to move more easily among the patchy, less predictable resources created under the warmer and drier conditions of the Middle Archaic.

1949 excavations at Doerschuk site
View of the 1949 stratigraphic excavation at the Doerschuk site (courtesy of the Research Laboratories of Archaeology).

Divisions of the Middle Archaic in the Piedmont are based on distinctive styles of spear points originally identified at Lowder's Ferry and Doerschuk sites in Stanly and Montgomery counties, respectively. Deeply buried archaeological deposits at these sites, and at the Gaston site in Halifax County, show cultural continuities through the Middle Archaic.

1949 excavation profile: Doerschuk site

Evidence for use of the atlatl, or spear-thrower, is first seen during the Stanly phase. Crude chipped-stone axes with lateral hafting notches have been recovered with Guilford points at the Gaston site. Other than these two innovations, there does not appear to be much that stands out about Middle Archaic tool assemblages.

Middle Archaic points from the Piedmont

Stanly Stemmed (bottom row), Morrow Mountain I Stemmed (third row, left two specimens), Morrow Mountain II Stemmed (third row, right two specimens), and Guilford Lanceolate (second row) projectile points from the Doerschuk site, and Halifax Side-Notched projectile points (top row) from the Gaston site.

Middle Archaic sites are numerous and appear to represent mostly temporary encampments. They occur across the Piedmont landscape without any obvious preference for particular environmental niches.

©2010 UNC-RLA