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Excavations open for digging

DARLINGTON — The 11th Annual Johannes Kolb Archaeology and Education Project will be held March 12-23 at Great Pee Dee Heritage Preserve, a 2,725-acre preserve in Darlington County owned and managed by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.

On March 17, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m., the public is invited to tour the excavations at the Johannes Kolb Site. At the March 17 event, primitive technologist Scott Jones will demonstrate a wide variety of primitive technologies and skills, and archaeologist Bobby Southerlin will demonstrate low-fired earthenware pottery construction and firing.

Excavations will take place at the site on March 12-23. Someone will be on site every day from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. to talk with students and visitors. School groups wishing to visit may contact Sean Taylor, S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Heritage Trust archaeologist, at 803-734-3753 in Columbia or by email at TaylorS@dnr.sc.gov.

“This will be our 11th field season at the Kolb site,” Taylor said, “and we’d like to invite everyone to come visit or come help. Johannes Kolb was an early settler in what is now Darlington County and his home appears on a 1747 plat. Researchers recovered a fair amount of 18th century material at the site and numerous postholes from the Kolb era.”

A multi-component prehistoric site is also present on the preserve with Native American remains from Paleoindian (11,000 years ago), Early Archaic (10,000 to 8,000 years ago), Early Woodland (4,000 to 2,000 years ago) and later Woodland times (2,500 to 1,500 years ago). Thoms Creek pottery, from the Early Woodland period, has been found on the site and a sizable fragment was recovered in 2004. Thoms Creek is some of the earliest Indian-made clay pottery in the continental United States. In 1998, a Hardaway Point dating back 11,000 years was discovered at the Great Pee Dee Heritage Preserve and in 2000 a portion of a 12,000-year-old Suwannee Point was found.

Artifacts from the 19th century, such as broken glass, bricks and nails, have also been found on the preserve. In total, some 162,800 artifacts have been recorded at the site in the past years of fieldwork. Chip Helms of Darlington, a past member of the S.C. Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology’s Archaeological Research Trust Board, first recorded this site and others on the preserve in 1975. Helms, who has explored the preserve since he was a young boy, has been the driving force behind the current excavations.

The Preserve is part of a large-area land protection project that includes seven miles of river frontage and provides habitat for four threatened S.C. plant species. Of the 69 heritage preserves statewide, 16 have been acquired by the DNR solely to protect archaeological or cultural sites.

The March-April 2003 edition of South Carolina Wildlife magazine featured an article about the archaeological work being done on Great Pee Dee Heritage Preserve, written by former Heritage Trust archaeologist Chris Judge.

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