Artifacts from 350-year-old village found at York County site 6-24-07

ROCK HILL, S.C. (AP) - Archaeologists digging on the site of a proposed York County development have found a burial ground and a number of relics from a Catawba village which disappeared nearly 350 years ago.

The finds have led builders of the Kanawha development of homes and shops off Interstate 77 to alter some of their plans. The site where the village stood will now be a park, and a road planned to go through what appears to be a burial site may be rerouted, officials said.

For years, archaeologists suspected that two Catawba villages might be on the site, But no substantial survey was done until this year, when Kanawha project manager Brian Goray invited University of North Carolina professors Stephen Davis and Brett Riggs to the site.

The professors and their students have spent months slowly digging up the site, which they think is the Catawba village of Newstie, likely devastated by a smallpox epidemic around 1760.

Based on the many different kinds of pottery they've found, Davis believes the village was ethnically diverse. With smallpox raging and Iroquois attacking neighboring tribes, refugees may have joined the Catawbas in the village.

“The Catawbas have a strong reputation as warriors,” Davis said. “Groups from pretty far afield are coming under their protection.”

Project manager Goray is meeting with the Catawbas and the South Carolina Historic Preservation Office to decide what to do with the relics.

“I think it's pretty cool. I think it's a great thing that we can preserve this,” Goray said.

Helping the professors are students from a cultural immersion day camp.

“This is an opportunity they've never had, to get this personal connection with their history and the land,” said Catawba Tribal member Beckee Garris, watching the children sift through dirt from the site. “The message is to be proud of who you are and your culture.”