Travel Spotlight: South Carolina’s Surfeit of Ancient American Indian Artifacts

"Kitchen and hunting tools" from the Clovis People 13,000 BC

Travel Spotlight: South Carolina’s Surfeit of Ancient American Indian Artifacts

South Carolina has recently been in the news thanks to the Republican primary, where the state shocked many, on both the right and the left, by handed Newt Gingrich a large victory over Mitt Romney and the rest of the Republican presidential hopefuls. Well, there is a lot more to South Carolina what the most recent news cycles have suggested. The state is home to an incredible amount of well perserved, extremely old American Indian artifacts, some of which have caused quite a controversy (in the scientific world rather than the aforementioned political).

Thanks to a wonderful article by L. Woodrow Ross of South Carolina’s, the state’s incredible collection of significant artifacts, including the Topper Archeological Site in Allendale County which one University of South Carolina archeologist believes offers evidence that humans lived in the area far longer than the Clovis people, who are thought to have arrived in America 13,000 years ago. The Topper Archeological Site, named after David Topper, a forester who led University of South Carolina archeologist Albert Goodyear to the site in the early 1980s, established the presence of the 13,000-year old Clovis people thanks to artifacts made of flint and chert found there. Even more mind blowing was the fire ring found at the site, which Goodyear believes shows 50,000 year-old plant remains. The possibility of a pre-Clovis human occupation of America is controversial to many scientists, but it’s also one of the reasons the Topper site is considered one of the most important in the country.

Another site of interest that Woodrow reports on is Hagood Mill, where a giant rock was revealed in an excavation to be covered in petroglyphs, prehistoric rock carvings that offer a window into the soul of these ancient indigenous communities. Due to the fear of losing the carvings completely to the slow acting but irreversible eraser that is weather, a building is being constructed to house the petroglyphs so future generations can learn from them.

What’s nice about Hagood Mill is that on the third month of each month, it opens up for visitors, delivering several exhibits that play on the interests of South Carolinians and visitors alike in just how these prehistoric indigenous people were able to create their incredible technology. Flint knappers will often be available at Hagood Mill, producing arrowheads, the famous projectile points that have become a part of the collective imagination, as well as spear points.

Woodrow also focuses on the Pickens County Museum, in Pickens, which has a robust collection of artifacts. Woodrow pays special attention to a collection donated by Bob Roark, found where the Indian town of Seneca once stood. Seneca Town is now covered by Hartwell Lake, and many of the Roark collection’s artifacts are spear points that date as far back as 10,000 B.C., predating the advent of iron. Another display at the Pickens Museum is an intriguing snapshop of a time not as far off—trade prices in the year of all years, 1776. If you’re curious what a rifle, a hatchet, a Duffield blanket or a pistol might cost American Indian traders during the revolution, this exhibit lets you know.

South Carolina’s universities also double as wonderful places to learn more about American Indian history (and pre-history) in the state. Both Clemson and the University of South Carolina have collections and exhibits, as well as archaeology and anthropology groups dedicated to safeguarding the state’s deep well of indigenous artifacts.

There’s a lot more to South Carolina than meets the eye. A wealth of American Indian history, an incredible percentage of which is perserved, is proof of that.

For more on the state’s rich abundance of artifacts, click here.