Rescue excavations of a Prehistoric shell mound

Archaeologists conducted archaeological investigation of a Prehistoric shell mound on Scott Creek at Edisto Island, South Carolina, United States of America. The structure is being destroyed by erosion by waves and tides.

Stratigraphy of the mound (by Karen Smith)

Once 4.5 metres high, the structure at present is no more than one metre in hight. It is considered as the most imperilled among more than a dozen mounds along the South Carolina coast from the Georgia border to the Grand Strand. The ancient structure is threatened by sea rise and erosion exacerbated by coastal development.

Erosion of the site (by A. J. Koelker)

The site is popularly called the Spanish Mount, but it’s also dubbed the shell mound, due to a recent discovery of pit dug in the earliest years of the mound, filled with shells and other discards. It is believed to date back 12000 years, and to have been created by the first known people in the Carolinas. It is believed that these people s began piling the shells of oysters and other food, apparently after they ate it. The mound is one of many built in patterns that suggest ceremonial feasting or village sites, as archaeologists found shards s of pins made out of bones and ornately designed pottery within them.

Excavations at the site (by Tamara Wilson)

Among other finds at the site is a large whelk with two holes cut into it, suggesting it was used as a tool. The sample was among a concentration of many whelks found at the earliest layer of the predominantly oyster shell mound. According to archaeologists, the meaty shellfish might have been the opening round of feasting at the site.

Shell with holes cut in it (by Karen Smith)

According to the researchers erosion at the site has worsened in recent years. Tides have undermined a wall placed to shore up the site after collapses in the 1990s. The bank has been severely gouged by swamp tides from a 2015 flood, followed by Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and passing tropical storms.

(after The Post And Courier, Tamara Wilson, Karen Smith & A. J. Koelker)

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