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North Carolina Archaeological Sites – Approaches to Handling Climate Threats Copy


Allyson Ropp, Historic Preservation Archaeological Specialist, NC Office of State Archaeology; Ph.D. Student, Integrated Coastal Studies, East Carolina University

As I wrote about this time final 12 months, North Carolina’s coastal archaeological websites are in a continuing state of change. We are at the moment working to establish, doc, and mitigate the results of climatic change on these websites via completely different means. The complexity of North Carolina’s shoreline and related environmental modifications make implementing commonplace mitigation and adaptation efforts difficult. This shouldn’t be distinctive to North Carolina, however the wrestle is obvious in several websites throughout the state. Not solely are our coastal websites dealing with erosion from storm surges, sea stage rise, nuisance flooding, and elevated stormy occasions, however they’re dealing with areas of pooling water, saltwater intrusion, and the subsidence of the land. Throughout the coastal space, a substantial variety of shipwrecks are additionally being impacted by these altering situations, together with sea stage rise, storm frequency and depth, and acidification. Each incident requires its personal technique to tackle the impacts on archaeological websites. Below are case research outlining completely different approaches used to handle archaeological website modifications to guarantee their preservation.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

An aerial {photograph} of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse on the shoreline in 1999 with its path for motion laid out behind it (Photo Credit: National Park Service 1999).

Now a neighborhood and cultural landmark of the Outer Banks and managed by the National Park Service, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse sits on the widest a part of Hatteras Island. Hatteras Island is a barrier island. It is impacted every day by pure sediment transportation processes alongside the shoreline. As the ocean stage has risen, these every day processes and rare storm overwash have slowly moved barrier islands nearer to the mainland and, consequently, nearer to the unique location of the lighthouse. The identical processes are occurring at present, as oceanfront trip properties are falling into the ocean and main street closures happen nearly month-to-month.

Several concerted efforts had been made to shield the lighthouse from the encroaching seas and mitigate injury to the necessary and iconic construction. In the Thirties, the Coast Guard put in groins alongside the shoreline to help sedimentation. These groins are nonetheless seen at present. However, whereas the groins could have supported sedimentation in some shoreline areas, additionally they supported erosion in different areas. This continued erosion precipitated the Coast Guard to transfer the sunshine and abandon the tower. When the National Park Service took over administration of the construction, they continued erosion management efforts, together with groin constructing and seashore renourishment. However, these had been solely momentary measures. In 1999, after years of public enter and environmental influence research, the National Park Service, with Congressional help, determined to transfer the lighthouse and its basis inland one mile. Over twenty years after the primary transfer, coastal erosion remains to be threatening the lighthouse, and shifting the tower once more could also be again on the desk.

Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson

Brunswick Town

Erosion at Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson State Historic Site. The left picture reveals the collapse of a part of the Northern Battery and the put in rip rap to management continued erosion. The proper picture reveals the water deterioration of the marsh and the southern finish of the reefmaker system within the background (Photo credit score: NC Office of State Archaeology 2021).

Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson State Historic Site is an archaeological website alongside the decrease Cape Fear River. The historic website marks the primary everlasting settlement within the area, a significant colonial and early-statehood port, and a Civil War Confederate fort. Following the top of the Civil War, the realm fell out of use till it turned an space of curiosity to archaeological researchers searching for to establish the placement of the primary everlasting Lower Cape Fear River settlement. Since then, the positioning has develop into part of the state’s Historic Sites and an space of continued archaeological exploration. The location, nonetheless, additionally exposes it to intensive threats from climatic change. The website faces erosion of main landforms and marsh protection attributable to every day sediment transport, storm surge, saltwater intrusion, water pooling, and land subsidence.

While a lot of the website is elevated above, main traditionally vital parts of the positioning are situated on the shoreline, together with two recognized colonial wharves and a battery wall. Initially, efforts targeted on documenting the uncovered archaeological parts and accumulating any artifacts that had been evident on the floor. This allowed the positioning workers to perceive the modifications occurring. However, sustained intensive erosion across the colonial wharves and the partial collapse of the top of the northern battery led to the necessity for extra complete efforts. The staff first put in rip rap and marine mattresses alongside the erosion areas to maintain down the sediment. These momentary measures nonetheless allowed for continued erosion in these areas. Since 2017, the positioning workers have taken extra intensive steps to help sediment accretion. They have put in reef-makers alongside the shoreline to attenuate the waves and help sediment deposition. Research and observational proof have proven that this technique is inflicting sediment deposition. This sedimentation has allowed for the stabilization of the archaeological website. However, it has facilitated the positioning’s protection, making it unattainable to get better data from the now-buried sections.

Shell Middens

Shell middens are a novel kind of coastal archaeological website. In coastal North Carolina alone, there are roughly 600 shell middens which were documented or are accounted for within the North Carolina website file. Shell middens (often known as shell heaps or shell mounds) are discard piles left by prehistoric communities. These middens consist primarily of used and discarded shells however sometimes comprise different cultural supplies, together with ceramic, bone, and stone instruments. The calcium carbonate within the shells helps create a extra alkaline setting that permits for the preservation of the natural materials housed contained in the middens. However, their presence in coastal areas makes these middens susceptible to environmental situations. Sea stage rise, shoreline erosion, wave vitality, and storm surges have and can proceed to alter these vital sources in coastal areas.

In the late 2000s-early 2010s, Lawrence Abbot, the Assistant State Archaeologist for the North Carolina Office of State Archaeology, undertook a examine to establish the archaeological sources within the Coastal Plain that had been prone to sea stage rise. The examine decided that of the 5753 archaeological websites inside 30 toes of sea stage, 581 had shell middens. Forty-two websites had been additionally deemed eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. This desk-based examine supplied a fundamental stock to start future assessments of coastal areas. To successfully adapt to and mitigate the results of local weather change, it’s first very important to know the place recognized sources are and the threats they face. For instance, this desk-based evaluation solely recognized websites inside 30 toes of sea stage. It didn’t account for the a whole lot of different archaeological websites within the Coastal Plain which may be impacted by different weather conditions. But it supplied a place to begin for future evaluation.

These case research present an unlimited array of strategies and measures which were used to shield archaeological sources from the impacts of local weather change. While some are extra substantial options, the data and efforts in any respect these websites over the power to study new data earlier than websites change states.

 

Linked References

Abbott, Lawrence E., Jr.

2011    The Office of State Archaeology Sea Level Rise Project: Initial Results and Recommendations Concerning the Adaptation for Cultural Resources to Climate Change. White paper for the Department of Cultural Resources. Reported by the North Carolina Office of State Archaeology.

Atlantic Reefmaker

2022    Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson Shoreline Protection Phase 1, 2, & 3A. Atlantic Reefmaker. https://atlanticreefmaker.com/case-studies/brunswick-town-fort-anderson-shoreline-protection/. Accessed 26 October 2022.

Hampton, Jeff

2019    Hatteras lighthouse could have to transfer once more as Outer Banks shoreline continues to shift. The Virginian-Pilot. https://www.pilotonline.com/information/article_f6c555a0-9d97-11e9-abf9-777e27e97a81.html. Accessed 26 October 2022.

Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry

2022    Whaleback Shell Midden: A thousand years of Native Americans seafood dinners. Bureau of Parks and Lands, Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. https://www.maine.gov/dacf/parks/discover_history_explore_nature/historical past/whaleback/index.shtml#:~:textual content=Shell%20middenspercent20percent28alsopercent20oftenpercent20calledpercent20percent22shellpercent20heapspercent2Cpercent22percent20and,suchpercent20aspercent20bonespercent2Cpercent20ceramicpercent20potspercent2Cpercent20andpercent20stonepercent20tools. Accessed 27 October 2022.

National Park Service

2022    Moving the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. https://www.nps.gov/caha/study/historyculture/movingthelighthouse.htm. Accessed 26 October 2022.

North Carolina Department of Transportation

2020    N.C. 12 to Remain Closed on Hatteras, Ocracoke Until at Least Tuesday Afternoon. North Carolina Department of Transportation. https://www.ncdot.gov/information/press-releases/Pages/2020/2020-09-21-highway-12-closure.aspx. Accessed 26 October 2022.

North Carolina Historic Sites

2022    Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson. North Carolina Historic Sites, Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. https://historicsites.nc.gov/all-sites/brunswick-town-fort-anderson. Accessed 26 October 2022.

North Carolina Office of State Archaeology

2022    Brunswick Town Wave Attenuators. North Carolina Office of State Archaeology, Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. https://archaeology.ncdcr.gov/applications/analysis/climate-change/saving-places/wave-attenuators. Accessed 26 October 2022.

Price, Mark

2022    Five-bedroom house collapses into ocean on Outer Banks, spreading particles alongside seashores. The News & Observer. https://www.newsobserver.com/information/nation-world/nationwide/article258210593.html. Accessed 26 October 2022.

Ropp, Allyson

2021    Heritage within the Eye of the Storm – Hurricanes, Coastal Erosion, Sea Level Rise and the State of Coastal & Maritime Archaeology within the North Caroline Coastal Plain. Society for Historical Archaeology Blog. https://sha.org/weblog/2021/10/heritage-in-the-eye-of-the-storm-hurricanes-coastal-erosion-sea-level-rise-and-the-state-of-coastal-maritime-archaeology-in-the-north-carolina-coastal-plain/. Accessed 26 October 2022.

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