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Research Archaeologist

Research Laboratories of Archaeology

Alumni Hall 101 •  (919) 843-0110 • marybeth.fitts@unc.edu

Research Interests

My research focuses on the materiality and logistics of American Indian persistence in Southeastern North America from the arrival of European colonists to the present day. I seek to document strategies adopted by Indigenous communities as they marshalled traditional knowledge and developed innovative measures to deal with violence and other existential threats created by colonization, ranging from the trade in American Indian slaves during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries to epidemic disease and war. To this end I use archaeobotanical and ceramic analysis to detail food and craft production, geographic information to understand how villages were maintained and relocated, and archival documents to provide clues to the names of communities and the individuals who lived there. Most of my work to date has focused on strategies enacted by members of the Catawba Indian Nation to maintain sociopolitical autonomy during the first half of the eighteenth century.

I am also interested in public archaeology and cultural heritage management, including the maintenance and use of large institutional datasets, developing criteria and contexts for prioritizing research and preservation, and establishing collaborative partnerships for investigating and stewarding archaeological sites. The ongoing impacts of climate change on archaeological sites is a pressing concern; while at the North Carolina Office of State Archaeology I supervised the state’s climate change research program, helping to secure grant funding for a hybrid terrestrial-underwater survey designed to document sites damaged by hurricanes on state-managed shorelines.

Select Publications

2017 ▪ Fit for War: Sustenance and Order in the Mid-18th Century Catawba Nation. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.

2015 ▪ The Indian Slave Trade and Catawba History. IN The Archaeology of Slavery: A Comparative Approach to Captivity and Coercion, edited by Lydia Marshall. Occasional Paper No. 41, Center for Archaeological Investigations, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

2015 ▪ Archaeobotanical Analysis. IN Archaeology at Ayers Town, An Early Federal Period Community in the Catawba Nation, by R. P. S. Davis Jr, Brett H. Riggs and David Cranford, pp. 228-249. Research Report 37, Research Laboratories of Archaeology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. pdf

2012 ▪ (with Ashley Peles and R. P. Stephen Davis Jr.) Archaeological Investigations at the Vance Site on the University of North Carolina Campus, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Chapel Hill: UNC Research Laboratories of Archaeology. pdf

2010 ▪ An Archaeological Assessment of the Crow Branch North Site (31Or633), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Orange County, North Carolina. Chapel Hill: UNC Research Laboratories of Archaeology. pdf

2009 ▪ (with Charles L. Heath) “Indians Refusing to Carry Burdens”: Understanding the Success of Catawba Political, Military, and Settlement Strategies in Colonial Carolina. IN Mapping the Mississippian Shatter Zone: The Colonial Indian Slave Trade and Regional Instability in the American South, edited by Robbie Ethridge and Sheri Shuck-Hall. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

2007 ▪ (with Brett H. Riggs and R. P. Stephen Davis Jr.) Summary Report of 2007 Archaeological Investigations at Catawba Nassaw Town (38Yk434), York County, South Carolina. Chapel Hill: UNC Research Laboratories of Archaeology. pdf

2006 ▪ Mapping Catawba Coalescence. North Carolina Archaeology 55:1-59. pdf