The Archaeology of North Carolina

North Carolina Archaeological Time

The Contact Period in North Carolina


The Contact Period in the Central Piedmont (A.D. 1600 - 1710)

Three Central Piedmont Contact Period phases are known: Mitchum phase (A.D. 1600 - 1670), Jenrette phase (A.D. 1600 - 1680), and Fredricks phase (A.D. 1680-1710).

The Fredricks Phase (A.D. 1680 - 1710)

The Fredricks phase, along the Eno River near Hillsborough, appears to be the remains of Occaneechi Town, home of the Occaneechis after they moved from the Roanoke valley in 1676, following Bacon's Rebellion. The town was visited by John Lawson in 1701.

Fredricks site map
Excavation plan of the Fredricks site, showing pits, postholes, houses, and the palisade.

This small stockaded village of no more than ten or twelve houses was completely excavated between 1983 and 1986. Probably fewer than seventy-five individuals lived in the village for less than a decade, but three separate cemeteries were found here. The small size of the settlement and the many graves indicates a very high mortality rate. The separate cemeteries may indicate different ethnic groups were being forced to band together as a result of depopulation.

Artist's conception of the Occaneechi Village at Fredricks
An artist's conception of the Occaneechi village at the Fredricks site (drawn by Orna Weinroth, © 1998)

Trade between the Piedmont Indians and the English intensified during the last quarter of the 17th-century. Grave goods with the Occaneechi burials include knives, tobacco pipes, hoes, kettles, and guns, as well as the beads and ornaments that had been common during the earlier Contact period phases. Graves were no longer placed in and around dwellings. Traditional shaft-and-chamber graves were replaced with rectangular, straight-sided graves aligned in three cemeteries outside the stockade. Graves were dug with metal tools.

European trade goods from Fredricks site
European trade items found at the Fredricks site: ax (a), spoons (b), scissors (c), knives (d), and pewter tobacco pipe (e).

Fredricks phase pottery is more closely related to Hillsboro series pottery than the Jenrette series. Two pottery types are present. Fredricks Plain is associated with a variety of vessel forms, while Fredricks Check Stamped is almost exclusively cooking vessels. The homogeneity of the Fredricks series suggests that all the pottery was made by one or two potters.

Fredricks series vessels
Fredricks series pots from Occaneechi Town.

Although Fredricks phase represents a time of dramatic disruption, a surprising degree of continuity is reflected in the subsistence data. The peltry trade and the introduction of European tools and trinkets seems to have had a minimal impact on the day to day subsistence of the Occaneechis. Only one bone each of a horse and a pig attest to the European presence and the only European plants are watermelon and peaches.

Stone tools continued to be used alongside of the European-made weapons and cutting tools. The Occaneechis do not appear to have been heavily engaged in working bone or shell. Numerous shell ornaments, including gorgets, columella beads, disk beads, wampum, and runtees were probably manufactured by groups along the Atlantic Ocean.

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