A Synthesis of the Prehistoric Archaeological Investigations of Lake Phelps, Washington County, North Carolina
During the mid-1980s, visitors and staff at Pettigrew State Park in Washington County, North Carolina discovered a series of prehistoric dugout canoes and associated artifacts in and around Lake Phelps. Beginning in 1985, archaeological investigations were undertaken at Lake Phelps to locate and identify prehistoric canoes. They also conducted a series of surveys aimed at collecting and identifying prehistoric artifacts. The work in these areas led to the discovery of 23 canoes, 19 of which have been radiocarbon dated, and the recovery of 5829 prehistoric artifacts. After these initial investigations, few archaeological investigations have been undertaken at Lake Phelps. Over the next 25 years the lake was only revisited five times, and all of this work focused primarily on the canoes. This changed in 2007 when low lake levels again led to the discovery of a significant amount of cultural material. This caused a renewed interest in the prehistory of Lake Phelps, and it was the catalyst for this thesis project. At the request of the North Carolina Department of Parks and Recreation, I conducted a research project focused on the prehistoric occupation of Lake Phelps. This project had four main objectives. The first was to locate and integrate all of the previous research from the lake. These documents were held by a variety of agencies, many of which were unaware of the existence of outside documents. With the data from the Lake Phelps archaeological investigations spread about in this manner, it prevented an accurate and inclusive evaluation of the work done at Lake Phelps. The consolidation of these data in this thesis allows for a complete and detailed evaluation of the prehistoric occupation of the lake. This thesis also presents materials collected during fieldwork designed to fill in gaps in the data. This fieldwork consisted of a survey of portions of site 31WH12. This survey completed the controlled collection of the entire site that was begun in the 1980s. The material from the survey was analyzed and integrated with that of the previous work. All of the data from Lake Phelps are used to define spatial and temporal patterns in the prehistoric occupation of Lake Phelps. These patterns are used to generate a culture history for Lake Phelps. The final step of the project uses this model to generate a context for future work on the lake. The results of the re-examination of the Lake Phelps data reveal a prehistoric occupation that began in the Late Paleoindian and lasted until the Late Woodland period, with the lake being abandoned before Europeans reached the region in the Eighteenth century. Archaeological investigations also show reveal four distinct areas of prehistoric occupation on the northern and western shores of Lake Phelps. An examination of the artifacts and canoes found in these occupational areas shows that they were used differentially throughout time, in many cases reflecting the larger regional settlement pattern trends seen across the rest of the North Carolina coastal plain.
Pierce, Greg. (January 2010). A Synthesis of the Prehistoric Archaeological Investigations of Lake Phelps, Washington County, North Carolina (Master's Thesis, East Carolina University). Retrieved from the Scholarship. (http://hdl.handle.net/10342/2908.)
Pierce, Greg. A Synthesis of the Prehistoric Archaeological Investigations of Lake Phelps, Washington County, North Carolina. Master's Thesis. East Carolina University, January 2010. The Scholarship. http://hdl.handle.net/10342/2908. November 30, 2023.
Pierce, Greg, “A Synthesis of the Prehistoric Archaeological Investigations of Lake Phelps, Washington County, North Carolina” (Master's Thesis., East Carolina University, January 2010).
Pierce, Greg. A Synthesis of the Prehistoric Archaeological Investigations of Lake Phelps, Washington County, North Carolina [Master's Thesis]. Greenville, NC: East Carolina University; January 2010.
East Carolina University