Site Introduction

Site Introduction:

The Kolb site is located in the Great Pee Dee Heritage Preserve in Darlington County South Carolina. The site lies on a cutoff channel of the Great Pee Dee River. This meander was cut off by a land owner in the 1870’s, not by natural forces , so for most of its history it was on the main river channel.


Southwest part of the Drake Quadrangle showing the location of the Kolb Site on the outer bank of the Byrds Island paleochannelIts dry sandy soils are just slightly higher than all but the worst of floods, yet it is not so far above the river as to make access difficult. For people living off the land it is an ideal spot, and it was revisited for thousands of years. The rich bottomland soils also drew historic period farmers, while the forests drew loggers, hunters and fishermen.

Archaeological Work History:

The site was was found and recorded in 1973 by a local high school student, Ernest “Chip” Helms. There is a good lesson here, because many people collect artifacts from sites, but few bother to properly record them with the State Archaeologist’s office. As a result, when the Great Pee Dee Heritage Preserve was obtained by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources’ Heritage Trust Program (HTP) in 1992 it was already known that several interesting sites were to be found there. Chip Helms approached Christopher Judge, the HTP archaeologist at the time, about conducting excavations at this and other sites on the preserve. In 1997 historical and archaeological investigations began in earnest at the Johannes Kolb site, 38DA75.

Research Goals:

When sites are being destroyed every day by modern land use it is difficult to justify destroying one for pure research purposes by excavation – because even the most careful archaeological excavations do, in fact, destroy sites as we study them. Yet we still have much to learn about the archaeology of South Carolina, particularly in inland areas such as this that have received little attention. Balancing these needs we chose to take a statistically valid sample of the site and all its resources, thus leaving well over 80% of it intact and available for future researchers. All excavations have been conducted by hand – not through the use of heavy equipment – so our destruction is limited to areas two meters on a side at the most.

Another important goal of the project was to provide a learning experience both for participants and visitors. Students from University of South Carolina, College of Charleston, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, University of Memphis, North Carolina State University, University of North Carolina-Greensboro, William and Mary, Vermont College, and others have been encouraged to participate, and many have gone on to conduct graduate work and have careers in the field. Participation has been open to high school students and adult volunteers as well. Visitors from the local community and from around the nation have also joined us. From the first a staff member was designated as site tour guide, but by 1999 the need had grown til we were forced to hire someone full time just to explain the site to visitors. We have had the site open to visitors virtually every day that we have worked there, but our middle saturday public day has been the biggest draw, with as many as 500 people coming out to see the site, and watch demonstrations of pottery and stone tool making, and re-enactments of Native American and Colonial life. Chip Helms and our many friends in the community have put on a barbeque and provided music and entertainment each public day, insuring participation.

In our opinion our work at the Kolb site has been a resounding success. Our student and adult helpers have been enthusiastic, and we believe they have come away with a positive experience. Opportunities for the public to visit archaeological sites in South Carolina in general are few, but in the Pee Dee region this is the only place where kids and adults can see archaeology in action on a regular basis. So in terms of this being a positive, educational experience we feel that we have done a good job.