NRWRF Tract Survey and Testing

Archaeological Investigations at the Northwest Regional Water Reclamation Facility Tract
Onslow County, North Carolina


In early 2010, ACC, Inc. conducted a comprehensive archaeological investigation of the Northwest Regional Water Reclamation Facility (NRWRF) tract in Onslow County, North Carolina. This investigation was undertaken pursuant to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation Regulations for Compliance with Section 106, codified as 36CFR Part 800. The NRWRF tract is located southeast of the town of Richlands, North Carolina.

Survey investigations focused on an intensive surface collection strategy in the agricultural fields due to excellent surface visibility. In the wooded areas of the tract, systematic shovel testing was the primary survey strategy. During the course of this survey, 28 archaeological sites and 16 isolated finds were recorded. For six of the identified sites (31ON1767, 31ON1770, 31ON1771, 31ON1774, 31ON1776, and 31ON1787) definitive NRHP recommendations could not be advanced based on the survey level of investigation. These sites subsequently underwent Phase II archaeological test excavations to definitively determine their eligibility for the NRHP.

For each site, the archaeological testing consisted of the excavation of 1 by 1 meter and/or 1 by 2 meter test units. Metal detecting and excavation of the metal detector hits was conducted at the historic sites. Machine scrapes were also conducted at each site to fully explore the potential for intact cultural features.Machine trenches were excavated at the prehistoric sites to examine the potential for deeply buried deposits.

Post features at 31ON1767

Site 31ON1767 was a late eighteenth to early nineteenth century historic site that represents one of the earliest historic settlements in the Richlands area. Test excavations and machine scrapes exposed numerous intact cultural features, including a possible privy, and several other pits and postmolds. The exposed features were relatively intact and had the potential to provide significant data on house and activity area patterning, as well as issues of economic status of the occupants.

Based on the presence of numerous well-preserved features and the abundance of artifacts that allowed us to attribute this site to the earliest period of settlement in the area, site 31ON1767 was determined to have the potential to contribute new and significant data on such early settlements. This site was hence recommended Eligible for the NRHP. As disturbance to this site could not be avoided, data recovery investigations were subsequently undertaken.

Soil anomaly at 31ON1770

Site 31ON1770 was a large habitation site spanning the Middle Archaic through Woodland periods as identified by diagnostic ceramics and lithics. The test unit excavations revealed that the majority of the prehistoric remains from all time periods were concentrated in the disturbed plowzone. Very few artifacts were recovered below the plowzone. Few features were identified at the site, either in the test units or machine scrapes. This site also did not contain stratified deposits. 31ON1770 was determined not to have the potential to add new or significant data pertaining to the prehistory of the region and was recommended ineligible for the NRHP.

Test unit excavation at 31ON1771

Site 31ON1771 was a late eighteenth to early nineteenth century historic site. A single soil anomaly was identified in a test unit, which, when bisected, was determined to be a tree stain. No features were identified in any of the scrapes exposed at this site. This site was determined not to retain sufficient data to address current research issues in local and regional history. Therefore, site 31ON1771 was recommended ineligible for the NRHP.

Testing investigations at 31ON1774

Site 31ON1774 was a Middle Woodland site that yielded numerous ceramic and lithic artifacts. However, results of the test unit excavations failed to identify stratified or buried deposits. Neither the test units nor machine scrapes yielded any cultural features. To further explore the potential for deeply buried deposits, one machine trench was excavated. This trench reflected no evidence of such deposits. Due to the lack of stratified deposits and absence of cultural features, site 31ON1774 lacked the potential to contribute significantly to our understanding of prehistoric lifeways and was recommended ineligible for the NRHP.

Site 31ON1776 was recorded as a late eighteenth to early nineteenth century site. A previously unidentified prehistoric component was documented at the site during the test excavations. Although the metal detector survey identified a variety of possible structure related material, neither the test units nor the machine scrapes contained any intact cultural features present at the site. This site did not contain significant archaeological deposits that would contribute to our understanding of local and regional history. Site 31ON1776 was recommended ineligible for the NRHP.

Brick wall or structure at 31ON1787

Site 31ON1787 had both prehistoric and historic components. Based on survey data, the prehistoric component was determined not to be sufficiently intact to warrant further examination. However, the historic occupation at the site (dating to the late eighteenth through middle nineteenth century) appeared to be substantial enough to warrant further investigation. A number of intact archaeological features, including possible subfloor and/or cellar pits, pier remnants, and clusters of postmolds were identified in the test units and machine scrapes. These features have been only minimally affected by the agricultural activities that have been conducted since the site’s occupation.

Feature at site 31ON1787

Due to the presence of numerous well-preserved features and the abundance of artifacts indicating that this site was occupied during the earliest historic period of settlement in the area, it was determined that site 31ON1787 had the potential to contribute new and significant data on such early settlements. We recommended this site Eligible for the NRHP. As this site was not located in the portion of the tract slated for construction, we recommended that it be preserved in place. A preservation plan was developed in consultation with the SHPO to insure that this site remains intact and undisturbed.