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Hilton Head Island: The 4,000-year-old Native American camp

Hilton Head Island contains a 4,000-year-old camp that is one of the last prehistoric coastal sites in the US.

The camp was discovered 27 years ago, when Jerre Weckhorst happened upon a fragment of a prehistoric clay bowl as he dug a water main in 1983.

Though the fragment was small, he knew what he’d found and what it meant.

He stopped the water main work immediately.

Weckhorst handed off the fragment — and others he subsequently found– to Mike Taylor, then executive director of the Museum of Hilton Head Island. Taylor recognized the clay piece as an example of millenia-old, fiber-tempered pottery, the first kind of pottery made in North America.

Taylor then alerted Michael Trinkley, an archeologist from the nonprofit Chicora Foundation.

Trinkley suspected he’d come upon one of the few nearly intact archaeological sites of prehistoric coastal island Indian life. The find dated from the period known as Stallings, between 3500 and 1000 B.C.

By 1986, a team of archaeologists had extracted more than 25,000 prehistoric artifacts from the site. Trinkley estimates there are still thousands more buried in Fish Haul Creek Park, which the town now owns and protects from artifact scavengers and development.

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