A trip to enjoy the mountains does not always mean the long drive to western North Carolina.
At almost 1,000 feet in height, Morrow Mountain, is one of the highest peaks in the Uwharrie Mountains of central North Carolina, a range that once rose to nearly 20,000 feet above sea level, but has worn down by erosion. The pinnacles, however, are the remains of one of the oldest mountain ranges in the eastern United States.
Camping, fishing and boating are popular things you can do when you visit the Morrow Mountain state park. And nearby, you can learn about the early occupants of this region at the Town Creek Indian Mound, a prehistoric archaeological site located in Montgomery County, which tells the story of the Pee Dee Culture, the native Americans who once lived and thrived in the region.
"We don't know what their tribal identity was because they left this area before European contact," said Rich Thompson, Manager of Town Creek Indian Mound. "Unfortunately we do not have written documentation of who they were, what they called themselves, what languages they spoke, things like that, most of what we know about folks who built this site comes from the archaeology that has gone on here since 1937."
Within the defensive palisade in this area were several buildings, including a mound was built over the remains of a rectangular-shaped earth lodge. A temple was built on top of the mound where important religious ceremonies and tribal feast were held.
"A county seat of sorts, it was the courthouse where laws could be made, it was also a church of sorts, it was a very sacred place to them, and this site would have overseen several smaller villages or hamlet sites up and down the Little River and over on the Pee Dee River as well," explained Thompson.
Archaeologists also discovered the remains of several support buildings, including a burial and mortuary house and another temple, all of which have been re-created. A total of 563 burials have been found at Town Creek Indian Mound with the remains believed to those of the Pee Dee Culture.
Even today, archaeologists are continuing to look at how native Americans lived and died, with a group of students from East Carolina University on site this spring for several weeks.
"The culture here changed over a two or three hundred years while the folks occupied this site, and that is what this work is, an attempt to identify those changes and work that was going on in the community while people were here," said Thompson.
The visitor center contains interpretive exhibits and an audiovisual program that brings alive a rich cultural heritage from the buried past.
Town Creek Indian Mound is the only national historic landmark in North Carolina that commemorates American Indian culture, and is one of the most popular historic sites in North Carolina.
Copyright 2014 WECT. All rights reserved.
322 Shipyard Boulevard