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The Siouan Project is a long-term project of the Research Laboratories of Archaeology whose purpose is to study the impact of European colonization on the native peoples of central North Carolina and the archaeological correlates of that impact. Begun in 1983 by Roy S. Dickens, Jr., H. Trawick Ward, and R. P. Stephen Davis, Jr., the project has undertaken regional surveys and excavated more than a dozen late precontact and historic villages of the Siouan-speaking groups who occupied the upper drainages of the Neuse, Cape Fear, and Dan rivers. Several of these sites, such as the sixteenth-century Wall site, the late seventeenth-century Jenrette site, and the early eighteenth-century Fredricks site (i.e., Occaneechi Town) near Hillsborough, North Carolina, have been extensively or completely excavated. More limited investigations have been conducted at the Mitchum, Webster, Edgar Rogers, George Rogers, Holt, and Guthrie sites along the Haw River and its tributaries, the Kluttz, Powerplant, and Lower Saratown sites along the Dan River, the Gravely site on the Mayo River in southern Virginia, and the Hogue site on Eno River at Hillsborough.

Research Questions

Some of the research questions that have been addressed by the Siouan Project include:

• What were the Siouan cultures like throughout central North Carolina prior to European contact?

• What was the timing, nature, and consequence of initial European contact?

• After initial contact, what aspects of Siouan culture changed first, and with what relative intensity?

Excavating at the Fredricks site, 1985.
• As contact became protracted, did Siouan peoples move more toward the adoption of European ways, or more toward making adjustments in their existing cultural patterns to cope with the European presence?

• What were the short-term and long-term effects of European epidemic diseases, and how are these manifested in the archaeological record?

• What effects did the deerskin trade have on the native economy, technology, social organization, and inter-tribal dynamics?

• How and why did human-land interactions change through time?

Field crew at Lower Saratown, 1988.

A Legacy in Student Training

Supported by funding from the National Geographic Society, the National Science Foundation, the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Siouan Project has served as an on-going research context for training more than 200 undergraduate and graduate students in archaeological field techniques.

Check out pictures of the excavation teams (supervisors, field school students, and other crew members) between 1984 and 2019. Are you in one of these photographs?

For More Information…

For inquiries about the Siouan Project, please contact Dr. Steve Davis.

Several 3D models of important artifacts from the Siouan Project excavations have been created by RLA students and staff. Models include ceramic vessels, clay pipes, incised shell gorgets, an iron ax, a brass kettle, glass bottles, iron scissors, copper alloy spoons, bone-handled knives, and more! Take a look for yourself. These and many other 3D models can be viewed on the RLA’s Sketchfab page.

The more significant results of this research have been extensively reported in five doctoral dissertations, two lengthy monographs, a CD-ROM, and more than a dozen research reports and journal articles. To read more about the project, check out the Selected Bibliography.