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 Mitchum phase (A.D. 1600 - 1670)

The Mitchum phase is known from a single site located in Chatham county adjacent the Haw River. The phase is attributed to the Sissipahaw Indians in the early part of the 17th-century. Trade artifacts at Mitchum site indicate that the site was occupied around 1650 and abandoned before John Lawson visited this location in 1701.

The Mitchum site was a small stockaded village of less than 1.5 acres. The only house found was oval with posts set in individual holes. It was probably covered in bark or skins. Storage pits, smudge pits, hearths, and two graves were found. Glass beads and brass ornaments, obtained through indirect trade with the English, were place with the dead.

Pottery of the Mitchum phase developed out of the preceding Hillsboro phase and is very similar to the pottery of the contemporary Jenrette site on the Eno River. Subsistence practices changed little as a consequence of contact with Europeans. Peach pits provide the only evidence of European influence on the Mitchum phase diet.

Milder forms of non-native tobacco, perhaps from the West Indies, may have been an important commodity in the trade network with the English. Finely made clay pipes resembling English kaolin pipes begin showing up in relatively large numbers on sites from this time, suggesting a change in smoking behavior after 1650.

European trade items were obtained in limited number and variety through indirect trade. A few gunflints, but no firearm parts were found. Knives, hatchets, hoes, and other iron tools apparently were not available. The trade inventory consisted mainly of ornaments.

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