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 Jenrette phase (A.D. 1600 - 1680)

The Jenrette phase is defined by information from a single archaeological site. Jenrette site is located near Hillsborogh along the Eno River, right next to the Fredricks site, and near the Wall and Hogue sites. Jenrette may be the remains of a Shakori Indian village visited by John Lederer in 1670.

Hillsboro Archaeological District
A map of the Hillsborough archaeological district showing the locations of the Hogue, Jenrette, Fredricks, and Wall sites.

Jenrette's stockaded village covered one-half acre, with a open central plaza. Only two of the numerous houses which originally surrounded the plaza were clearly identified by remaining wall patterns. A small number of burials in the village area suggests that European diseases had not yet affected the Eno River population.

Jenrette site map
Excavation plan of the Jenrette site, showing pits, postholes, and the palisade. The two Occaneechi cemeteries are associated with the Fredricks site.

Unlike most houses found on sites in the Piedmont, the Jenrette structures were built by placing wall posts in long trenches rather than individual post homes. Wall trenches were also used at the slightly later Fredricks site.

Most of the Jenrette features were storage pits and large food preparation facilities identified as roasting pits or earth ovens. Large shallow roasting pits like the "feasting pits" described for the late Hillsboro phase were usually located near the stockade.

Wall trench house at Jenrette site
A wall-trench house (House 3) excavated at the Jenrette site. The house measured 16’ X 22’ and had two interior storage pits (courtesy of the Research Laboratories of Archaeology).

The ceramic assemblage from the Jenrette site is very similar to the Mitchum phase. Both comprise the Jenrette ceramic series. However it is believed that the Jenrette pottery was made by Shakori, not Sissipahaw, potters. Although similar to the ancestral Hillsboro series, Jenrette series vessels are heavier, have thicker walls, and are more crudely made.

Small triangular arrowpoints, as well as other stone tools (drills, perforators, gravers, spokeshaves, and scrapers, as well as ground-stone celts, chipped-stone hoes, and milling stones) continue to be used during Jenrette phase. Bone and shell tools also persist and resemble the preceding Hillsboro phase. These traditional tools were soon to be replaced in the ensuing Fredricks phase.

Subsistence remains at Jenrette are very similar to samples from sites occupied just prior to European contact. No significant changes in practices or diet can be seen. White-tailed deer, fish, acorns, hickory nuts, and walnuts were important wild foods, while corn, beans, bottle gourds, and sumpweed were cultivated. Peaches were the only non-native food harvested.

Tobacco pipes - North Carolina Piedmont
Tobacco pipes found on contact-period sites in Piedmont North Carolina. The two specimens at top left and the specimen to the left in the second row are English trade pipes; the specimen at top right (from the Jenrette site) and specimens in the third row are terra-cotta pipes with rouletted designs.

The inhabitants of Jenrette buried their dead in both shaft-and-chamber and simple straight-sided pits. Associated artifacts (primarily small glass beads sewn on garments) reflect the beginnings of trade with the English. There is a lack of epidemic diseases during Jenrette phase.

The increased popularity of pipe smoking seen in the Mitchum phase is also seen in Jenrette phase. Numerous terra-cotta pipes were used alongside traditional forms. Fine rouletted designs, like those decorations found on "Tidewater" pipes throughout the Middle Atlantic region, are seen on Jenrette terra-cotta pipes. This style of pipes is also found on sites dating to the Middle Saratown, Late Saratown, and Fredricks phases. They are an excellent horizon marker for the 1650 to 1700 period.

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