Posts Tagged ‘American Indians’

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.

Flood water over-topped the dam during construction in 1973.

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.

Members of the North Carolina Archaeological Society identify projectile points for visitors at the heritage event in 2011.

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!

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In a state so rich in American Indian history it should be no surprise that there are prehistoric rock carvings in the mountains.    Next time I am near Cullowhee, I plan to use the modern highway (and some less modern back roads) to see Judaculla Rock.

Judaculla is the anglicized pronunciation of Tsul Kalu, who was a legendary giant considered by the early Cherokees to be master of all game animals.  The large soapstone Judaculla Rock has glyph carvings that date from about the year 500 on up to the 1700s. As recently as the late 1800s, Cherokees held ceremonies there.  In the 1930s the Parker family, who owned the land prior to donating it, filled the carvings in with chalk so that the images would show up better.

Judaculla Rock as seen in the 1930s when the Parker family filled the carvings with chalk. Image courtesy of the North Carolina State Archives.

In 2007 the rock underwent extensive study and conservation. At that time the archaeologist and rock art specialist who completed the work declared that Judaculla’s petroglyphs are the most extensive and complicated of any found east of the Mississippi.

The rock, and a one-acre parcel of land surrounding it, is now owned by Jackson County. The Eastern Band of the Cherokee has partnered with the county to protect the sacred site and to erect interpretive signage in English and Cherokee.    There is an observation deck, and the site is open, free of charge, during daylight hours.  A map and directions can be found here.  There is also a Highway Historical Marker about the rock.

The idea of an object so primitive that still exists in our modern landscape strikes me as extraordinary.  If you do an internet search for Judaculla Rock, you will find all sorts of interesting stories and theories.  While we may never know the meanings of the carvings, it is incredible to see them and ponder their significance.

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