Living in southwest Wake County, I pass over Jordan Lake often in my travels—I always enjoy the view. Many North Carolinians enjoy the water, beaches, trails, and woodlands at Jordan Lake State Recreation Area.
Historically speaking, though, Jordan Lake is but a youngster. After a devastating tropical storm in 1945, the government began to look at methods of flood control for the Cape Fear River Basin. In 1962 the Army Corps of Engineers submitted a plan that recommended building three reservoirs—ultimately only the construction of Jordan Lake would be realized. Groundbreaking for what became Jordan Lake took place in December 1970, and the lake was full about 12 years later.
As a regulatory requirement, a thorough archaeological investigation had to be made in the area that would be inundated. The cultural resources management project was conducted 1978-1979 by a Michigan company (led by principal investigator Steve Claggett, who ultimately would return to North Carolina and become State Archaeologist).
The project’s archaeological surveys determined that there were about 350 sites in the area—two were the focus of extensive excavations. Archaeologists verified that Indians had inhabited the vicinity as far back as the Early Archaic period—or about 10,000 years ago. To this day the work stands as on of the largest salvage archaeology programs carried out in the state.
In recognition of the archaeological work that made Jordan Lake possible, the North Carolina Archaeological Society, Research Laboratories of Archaeology at UNC-Chapel Hill, and State Parks co-sponsor North Carolina Archaeology and Heritage Day at White Oak Recreation Area. This year it will be on Saturday, October 6, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The free family event offers a variety of exhibits, demonstrations, entertainment, and activities related to archaeology and North Carolina’s cultural heritage.
The organizers have put together a great day, including primitive technology demonstrations such as fire making, flint knapping, and pottery making; displays about archaeology around the state; and hands-on activities for children, which include screening for artifacts, identifying plant remains, mending broken pottery, making pottery, and face painting. Kids of all ages should come prepared to get their hands on history!