Transitions Archaeological Data Recovery at the Shell Crescent Site (38BU1791) Palmetto Bluff, Beaufort County, South Carolina


Palmetto Bluff, LLC, proposed to develop the Palmetto Bluff Phase I Development Tract in Beaufort County, South Carolina. Previous archaeological investigations by Brockington and Associates, Inc., documented significant archaeological sites within this tract (Poplin 2002). The Shell Crescent site (38BU1791) was designated as a Geographic Area of Particular Concern (GAPC) by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and the Office of Coastal Resource Management (OCRM) for its Woodland and Mississippian period components. In 2001, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the SHPO, OCRM, and Palmetto Bluff, LLC, was signed, calling for data recovery at Shell Crescent prior to development: Data recovery excavations took place from June to November 2002. This report details .the methods, results and interpretations of Phase Ill data recovery at Shell Crescent.

Data recovery investigations were conducted as proposed in the SHPO-approved treatment plan for site 38BU1791. This data recovery investigation recovered samples of significant information from the site. These samples were employed to address research questions consistent with the period components and type of occupation outlined in the treatment plan. Completion of these investigations is sufficient to resolve the adverse effect that proposed golf course development and other land disturbing activities will have on this National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) site. Land disturbing activities at the Shell Crescent site (38BU1791) should be allowed to proceed as planned. Field investigations included the excavation of 206 shovel tests and small test units spaced at 7.5-meter intervals, 25 larger hand excavated units, and 19 backhoe scrapes which totaled l,183 square meters, constituting 7.3 percent of the site. A total of 67 potential features were identified. Twenty-three of the identified features were a mixture of root and tree disturbances. Of the 44 confirmed features, 7 postmolds, 21 small shell filled pits, 3 large shell filled pits, 3 non-shell pits, 5 facies, 5 wall trenches, and a dog burial were identified. The artifact assemblage was large, consisting of 28,382 ceramic sherds and other objects. Diagnostic ceramics distinguished five occupations, three of which were non-contributing to the site's NRHP eligibility (Stallings, St. Catherines/Savannah, and Historic period).

The contributing components consist of Deptford/Wilmington and Irene phase occupations. The Deptford/Wilmington occupation is represented by a large scattered midden, diagnostic ceramics (plain, cord-marked, and check stamped), and nine features. Diagnostic ceramics and radiocarbon dating provide a mean corrected date range of AD 350-510, placing the occupation in the early Middle Woodland period. Artifact and feature distributions suggest that there were four primary areas of activity during the Woodland occupation; a primary refuse disposal area, an area for pottery manufacture, and two residential areas.

Subsistence data indicate that the Woodland inhabitants were relying on shellfish and supplementing their diets with a variety of fish, turtles, and terrestrial mammals. Evidence of repeated occupation, reliance on a varied spectrum of natural resources, and evidence for multiple activity areas indicate that Shell Crescent served as a multifamily residential base and was occupied frequently in a seasonal cycle or was perhaps occupied for more than a single season during the Early Middle Woodland period.

The Mississippian Irene occupation at Shell Crescent consists of a large sheet midden made up of artifacts and shell, numerous features, a large artifact assemblage, two structures, a small shell mound, and six distinct activity areas. Identified activity areas include two residential areas, a ritual sector, a formal refuse disposal area, and two zones containing single episode trash pits. Subsistence data demonstrate a lesser reliance on mammals within the faunal assemblage and indicate that aquatic resources, particularly fish, appear to be the diet staple for site residents. Subsistence data and residential patterns point toward a winter occupation and it appears that Shell Crescent functioned as a fishing hamlet during the Irene occupation.

The artifact assemblage representing the Irene phase possesses characteristics of early, middle, and very late Irene assemblages and cannot be easily categorized. The ceramic assemblage contains a unique variety of stylistic attributes and a new variant name, Irene Shell Crescent Variant (SCV), has been designated. The presence of design elements such as diamond check stamping and cob marking, combined with radiocarbon dates, indicate that the Irene SCV assemblage may represent the transition from Savannah to Irene types. However, remarkably, the assemblage also contains characteristics such as diamond check stamping with slipping and burnishing, red filming, and an enormous suite of complicated stamp designs which are traditionally associated with the Protohistoric type Altamaha suggesting that the origins of this later type can be seen within the assemblage. The transitional types present within the Irene SCV assemblage demonstrate that the roots of the Altamaha ceramic tradition may well predate the Mission period.

Cite this Record

Transitions Archaeological Data Recovery at the Shell Crescent Site (38BU1791) Palmetto Bluff, Beaufort County, South Carolina. Dea Mozingo, Connie Huddleston, Alana Lynch, Meagan Brady. Brockington & Associates, Inc. 2004 ( tDAR id: 381504) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8FJ2HNC

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Temporal Coverage

Calendar Date: 350 to 510

Spatial Coverage

min long: -80.929; min lat: 32.079 ; max long: -80.762; max lat: 32.249 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contributor(s): Alana Lynch; Megan Brady

Lab Director(s): Connie Huddleston

Principal Investigator(s): Dea Mozingo

Landowner(s): Palmetto Bluff LLC

Submitted To(s): South Carolina State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO); South Carolina Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM)

Record Identifiers

Brockington and Associates, Inc., report number(s): 1822


General Note: Volume II contains appendices.

File Information

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