Archeologists Discover 10,000 Year-Old Artifacts While Clearing Land for I-540 Project

Before the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) began clearing land for the final portion of the Triangle Expressway, its archeology unit searched for campsites used by North Carolina’s earliest settlers. Anytime NCDOT proposes a large construction project, federal law requires documenting of historic or prehistoric sites in the construction corridor. As a result of the survey for the entire corridor, the department believes to have discovered over 155 sites.

In the case of the Triangle Expressway, which will complete the 540 outer loop around Raleigh, most of the sites that archeologists found were not in the immediate path of the asphalt. There was one exception, an area in southeastern Wake County below Garner near Williams Crossroads. 

For three months, archeologists dug up an extensive area in 540’s path and sifted every inch of dirt through large screens. During this time, scientists found artifacts, including pottery, tools, and jewelry from more than 1,500 years ago. One of the most exciting discoveries was a broken and once polished piece of stone with holes drilled in it from approximately 10,000 years ago. Archeologists believe that the stone is probably a piece of personal adornment or jewelry. The two-holed item is something that someone would have suspended as a piece of personal decoration or ornamentation. Archeologists assume the area was a popular campsite for the nomadic natives who were North Carolina’s first inhabitants. Archeologists believe the campsite’s origins came thousands of years earlier, as they found more artifacts including what they call “points” (stone tools with sharp edges). These points from the archaic period, with some of them being from around 6,000 to 8,000 B.C. The discovery of the items found at the site reveals just how far hunter-gatherers and other people might have roamed. The artifacts found and collected at the site will ultimately end up at the North Carolina Office of State Archeology.

What is the 540 Project?

N.C. 540 Southeast Extension project was developed by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) to meet the growing population and traffic in southeastern Wake county. The project is broken up into three parts: R-2721 (N.C. 55 Bypass to U.S. 401), R-2828 (U.S. 401 to I-40), and R-2829 (I-40 to U.S. 64/264). You can read more about the project and look at the project map here.

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